Two Killer Google+ Mistakes

Google Plus LogoLast week WSJ ran an article entitled “There’s No Avoiding Google+” on the front page. In short, it highlighted the drive by Google to make Google+ pervasive across other Google services.

In one of the most telling quotes in the story, Bradley Horowitz, a VP at Google, says “The entry points to Google+ are many, and the integrations are more every day.”

However, despite reaching 105.1 million global unique visits in October (via Comscore), Google+ is struggling to drive real usage, with users only spending 12 minutes a month on the site (via Google in June). (Stats from this Mashable article)

Google’s Fatal Google+ Errors

While Google has effectively tied Google+ to services and features (such as Hangouts on Air), today it has no hope of becoming a competitive social network. Here is why:

  • There is no Google+ identity. I don’t mean a brand identity. I mean Eric Wittlake, as a person, does not exist on Google+.
  • Google has users running in Circles. Circles were born out of a real need to better filter what you see and better control what you distribute. Google tried to kill both birds with one stone and it just doesn’t work.

Until Google solves the first point, they have a major disadvantage. Until they solve the second, circles are not a benefit.

The Missing Google+ Identity

I have a single account on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest…, on every “social network” I am a part of. Except Google+.

If you search for Eric Wittlake on Google+, you will find two separate accounts. In addition, I receive Google+ invites for two other Google email addresses that do not have active Google+ accounts.

According to Google, I am four separate accounts! If you choose to circle the wrong account, then we haven’t even connected! (Here is my real Google+ account if you are interested.)

In addition to making it difficult to connect, the lack of identity creates other problems for Google+.

  • It is difficult to share. Since I’m often logged in to other Google accounts, I cannot use +1 buttons to share content on Google+.
  • Notifications are muted. Although the red box is a great notification within the Google ecosystem, if you are logged into other Google accounts, it falls short.

Until Google allows you to create an account for you as an individual, not an email address, this problem will continue to plague Google’s most loyal users and the business users they are looking to attract.

Advantage: Facebook, and every other network except Google+.

Running in Circles

CirclesCircles, in concept, are a great addition. However, the more I attempt to use them, the more I realize just how short they fall.

I want to filter what I see. I want to selectively share my updates. So what happens when I circle you on Google+?

Here are two scenarios:

  • I put you in my B2B marketing circle and you put me in your photography circle. Now my B2B marketing stream is filled with photography posts and your photography stream is getting my marketing posts.
  • I put you in my B2B marketing circle and I begin seeing all of your updates, on any topic, so long as they are public. Although I’m interested in your B2B marketing content, circles didn’t actually help me filter it at all.

We may have had an opportunity to connect but because Google+ has us running in circles, the opportunity was missed.

Small Advantage: Facebook with EdgeRank as an additional filter and lists for manual control.

Your Turn

Overall, I’m a fan of Google+. But until we can have an individual identity on Google+ and circles become useful for filtering information, I don’t see it taking off with a general population. What do you think?

Share your view in the comments or with me on Twitter (@wittlake) or Google+!

Image by blprnt_van on Flickr

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  • Thomas Scott

    So true. I love the promise of Google+ but it just hasn’t taken off. I use it daily but not for anything other than when the notification in Gmail pops up. It is great for SEO and sharing links but that’s about it.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      And if its primary function is SEO (for machine benefit), it will hurt the experience for “real people” looking to use it as a social network. Thanks for the addition!

  • http://twitter.com/jeffswan18 Jeff Swan

    I’m so happy you posted this Eric. For the life of me, I don’t understand why there are no personalized URLs for Google+. When so many competing social networks offer personalized, and “authentic” feeling social profiles, why remove one of the most simplistic forms of making us feel human? Not to mention the difficulty of sharing a profile URL that is all random letters and numbers :(

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Good point. I guess I should be glad I have an unusual name. Connecting with your friend John Smith on Google+ would be a real challenge!

  • carmenhill

    The first issue is a huge irritation. If I want to +1 something I have to switch to another browser, but…the content I want to +1 isn’t in that browser. I have to REALLY, REALLY want to +1 something to go to that much trouble. The circles thing doesn’t bother me, but mainly because the profile/account confusion discourages me from using G+ at all.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Carmen. Yeah, I’m with you on +1. In addition to +1 issues, it also breaks when I get an invite from someone to the “wrong” email address. Its still me, but not according to G+.

      Ok, the circles may be a stretch here, but it was originally a killer feature of G+ and has fallen well short of the original promise.

  • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

    Too funny I have had this conversation with our local google team multiple times. We ran into all kinds of issues as I have multiple email accounts for a darn good reason, it helps me stay efficient.

    I miss out on doing a LOT in G+ because it’s a hassle to have multiple accounts open in several browsers. That darn hurdle makes me much less motivated to stop and click G+. It’s like a guy who is too needy when dating, you do not take his calls.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      LOL, your analogy makes me glad I’m happily married and no where near the dating scene!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Hopefully one day it will change!

  • zaddleinternetmarketing

    Nice post Eric – add to the mix the whole Google+ local pages and at the moment it is a nightmare. Having said that I am looking at it more often and if I turn on notifications from specific people I can then get a better “notification” stream coming through.

  • connectedchris

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Eric. Whilst I agree that the login/identity issue is a problem, I think the issue with Circles depends on what your view is on their purpose.

    For me, I use Circles to group “like-minded” people together, so they are grouped by their overall personal identity. So for example, I have a group that is “Local entrepreneurs”; therefore, I receive the content that those people either share with the “Public” or, if they have me in their Circles, when they decide to share content with that particular Circle. Essentially, Circles is about being able to listen in to particular groups of people, not particularly types of content (although, naturally that will occur sometimes).

    In terms of Circles as a device for deciding where my content goes, if I think something is of general interest and is why people have put me in one of their groups of people – it goes “Public”. If it’s content that I’d rather not share with certain groups of people, then it’s shared to my particular groups of people/Circles; e.g. “Work Colleagues”.

    I think Google+ does have some way to go, but think their positioning is starting to move in the right direction. I think we need to stop thinking of Google+ as an alternative Facebook, it’s different. It’s also becoming a part of the working toolkit; I’ve shared my thoughts here on that: ow.ly/gEZ6n

  • http://twitter.com/StefanLindblad Stefan Lindblad

    Hi Eric,

    Good article. Thanks!
    I try and try again to use google+, but forget. I am currently in the trying mode again. I agree on the cricle things and lack of personal feel, because who likes to be a gazillion long number as an offical google name? That is way to internet retro- So old school when website addresses were long numbers and dots.

    Another thing to me is the visual aspect and feel. I simply dont like it enough. I believe I read one time in WIRED magazine, or maybe another brittish magazine about an art direct who got employed by Corel, but later quite the job because Google was only into technology. Now that is one mayor issue. First the technology NEEDS to be there, its the core, but in the end a user will have to use it. And then NAVIGATION and feel of the product comes into play.

    Google+ unfortunatly doesnt have a great visual design, in my view. It doesnt appeal enough to me. But taste is different.

    Facebook. I have a love & hate relation to Facebook simply because it su.c.k.s in navigation. When it comes to find ones way around facebook as a user. I simply can not understand all the problems there is inbedded to find in a quick way the information I need when I try to solve a problem.

    Or in Facebook when I sometimes can unfollow a lenghty thread and other times I cant. What is that about. It only makes me grumpy on Facebook. No consistency there. Facebook is used by so many people, and that quite frankly is the only reason I use it. Not because I like Facebook.

    Thansk for a good article,

    Stefan

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Stefan!

      Check out gplus.to, it isn’t part of Google+, but it does at least give you an easier way to share a link to your profile. I’m at gplus.to/wittlake, for instance.

      Good point about FB, there are lots of things many people don’t like about it. Over time, “avoiding FB” might be enough for G+ or another competitor to gain share.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Porter Mason

    Bigger problem for me is the lack of APIs for third-party apps to post stuff. When I am looking at something in Instapaper or Reeder, and want to share it out to G+… I can’t. I’d have to grab the url, go to the G+ site/app, and then share it. And for a network that is largely fallow (at least in terms of my friends), I can’t for the life of me understand why they make it so hard to share stuff on it.

  • Allen MacCannell

    My biggest Google+ mistake nomination:

    Your Company Page is not linked to from where your company is listed under your image. This is an inexcusable oversight that LinkedIn and Facebook do not make.

    It’s like they don’t want people to find company pages, to learn about where the people they are connected with work and maybe circle that page as well. As a result, I and others will have to ask people to circle our +[company page] inside the text of each new post we make.

    There was no thought process at work in making it this way.

    It was clearly a lack of a thought process.

    Worse: I’ve been commenting about this for more than a year now and everyone agrees with me. I’ve told Google employees.

    But my words have never been seen by a Google+ product manager or he or she would have fixed this oversight by now. (Sorry for the rant)

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  • http://twitter.com/JM_Grants Jo Miller, JM Grants

    Whew – I thought I was the only one with this issue of multiple identities – G+ identity crisis. Thank you for this post!

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Glad you liked it! There are quite a few of us out there. Maybe we need our own G+ community, hmm…

  • Beth Terrence

    Thanks for the post, Eric. I was trying to sort this out and really feels good to know this is not my issue but a global one on Google+. Thanks for your insight. Looking forward to exploring other posts.

  • John Richardson

    Great article, Eric. I always thought Google circles was a good feature until you explained the problem in your post. I think it was Guy Kawasaki who talked about sharing your links with Public vs. just your circles. I’m not sure of the ramifications of this, but it may solve some of the access issues. Currently, I use Google+ just as a link to my author’s profile on my blog for each post, so my picture comes up in search.

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  • http://www.agencyrevolution.com/free-stuff/whitepapers/newsid/6/white-paper-digital-marketing-made-easy Joshua Monen

    Couldn’t agree more with you +Eric Wittlake. The single biggest reason I haven’t jumped the Facebook ship and gone all in on G+ is because I don’t have a single identity on here! . I have my work profile and my personal profile and it’s confusing. I don’t have that problem with FB, LinkedIn or Twitter.

    I like the idea of G+ better than FB because it’s more content-centered (I have to say, I’m tired of seeing cat pictures on FB from people I went to high school with but haven’t seen in 12 yrs). I’d rather connect with like-minded people who produce great content.

    Anyway, I just wanted to rant a little. I’ll still use G+ but I really hope they figure this out soon. I just don’t get how the same company can build a car that doesn’t require a driver but can’t solve the multiple identity issue! Come on guys you can do better than that!

  • http://joshuamonen.com/blog Joshua Monen

    Couldn’t agree more with you +Eric Wittlake. The single biggest reason I haven’t jumped the Facebook ship and gone all in on G+ is because I don’t have a single identity on here! . I have my work profile and my personal profile and it’s confusing. I don’t have that problem with FB, LinkedIn or Twitter.

    I like the idea of G+ better than FB because it’s more content-centered (I have to say, I’m tired of seeing cat pictures on FB from people I went to high school with but haven’t seen in 12 yrs). I’d rather connect with like-minded people who produce great content.

    Anyway, I just wanted to rant a little. I’ll still use G+ but I really hope they figure this out soon. I just don’t get how the same company can build a car that doesn’t require a driver but can’t solve the multiple identity issue! Come on guys you can do better than that!

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Great point! Yes, if you can create Google Glass, a self-driving car, and whatever else comes out of labs, you should be able to solve this little identity issue that everyone else has already solved. Thanks for the comment!

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