Should Facebook be Worried About Google+?

In previous articles, I’ve written about how Google+ can build a developer ecosystem on Chrome that is different from Twitter’s ecosystem, and how Twitter must change to survive against that. It’s clear that Google+ and Twitter are very different animals.

Now what about Facebook? Should Facebook be worried about Google+? Are Facebook and Google+ really competitors? I don’t think so.

Google+ is not as geeky as Twitter, but it’s still too complicated for most consumers to want to use it.

Figuring out how to use Google+, and how to make effective use of it, at this early stage, is like trying to use an old shortwave radio. Actually, it’s like trying to figure out a shortwave radio that is only halfway built. This is not an activity my mom is going to enjoy.

It’s going to be a while before Google+ is ready for primetime consumer use. Facebook is way ahead on that front.

And there’s also the fun factor issue — Facebook has focused on fun: games, pokes, virtual gifts, and all sorts of social silliness that consumers just love.

The lack of play in the Google+ experience is actually a plus, not a minus, for many early users – there’s more signal, less noise, there – at least potentially. And this creates a self-selecting use-case: people are using Google+ for sharing ideas and having real conversations (and as of week two, not only about Google+ it turns out).

As of this article there is certainly an increase in non-serious content showing up on Google+, but it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to Facebook’s content mix. This could be an early-adopter effect that could change if more mainstream users adopt G+, but currently, my instincts are telling me G+ content is going to be more serious than fun. I’m not convinced the mainstream consumer audience is going to use G+ for fun.

Google+ is best used for sharing knowledge. This may result in Google+ filling a role that USENET used to play and that the fragmented blogosphere never really succeeded at solving: a unified knowledge sharing and conversation medium.

Hopefully the folks at Google+ will realize that the slightly more serious communication that’s happening in the service is a good thing. Instead of trying to change that by introducing more ways to play, they might want to consider celebrating it.

Keep out the silly social games, don’t introduce the fluff. This will preserve Google+ as a higher signal-to-noise communication channel and will make it unique from Facebook.

Hopefully Google+ won’t immediately integrate Zynga, for example, because that would totally ruin their differentiation from Facebook and take them in a direction they have no in-house DNA for: fun and games.

It’s just not too likely that the serious engineering and science culture of Google can replicate the lightheartedness of Facebook. And anyway if they could make Google+ fun, will anyone want it? After all they already have Facebook for that.

People are not going to use Facebook for serious conversations – it’s already too late for that. And they’re not going to use Google+ for superpoking. They can already poke each other to death perfectly well in Facebook.

Google+ is different from Facebook. And that’s a good thing for both companies. There may actually be room for both of them in this town.

4 thoughts on “Should Facebook be Worried About Google+?”

  1. Interesting thoughts but were I think you are getting it wrong is by equating ‘social’ with ‘silly games’. If I want to share thoughts, videos and photos with friends that most certainly is social. If I want to do that in a clean and mature environment that does not make it less social.

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