For Google Plus, the party is over before it starts

google+

By Mark Schaefer

There are going to be a gajillion articles about Google Plus, the new “Facebook killer.”

I haven’t seen the platform yet. I haven’t tested it. I don’t care about Google’s legacy of failure with other abysmal attempts at the social space. But I can confidently predict it’s not going to kill Facebook and may not survive at all. Here’s why.

I had a 17-year-old kid in one of my classes a few months ago. He’s a complete social media freak and a brilliant young man. I asked him: “If I gave you $50 bucks, would you switch from Facebook to something else?”

“Could I move everything on Facebook to the new platform?”

“No, I don’t think Facebook would allow that.”

“Then no.”

“What if it was $500?”

“No way.”

“What if it was $5,000?”

“Nope. Just couldn’t do it.”

And that my friends, is why nothing is going to beat Facebook. Here is what Google Plus and every other pretender doesn’t understand. Facebook is not a website. It’s a lifestyle. The party’s over.

In more technical terms, Facebook may be entrenched as the king of social networking sites for a long time because the emotional and psychological cost of switching to something else is too high.

Google Plus and psychological switching costs

In our tech-addicted society of hyper-change, we’ve become conditioned to expect the next big thing. But every time we get our hands on the latest gadget or test drive an application, there is an inherent switching cost associated with that effort. If we try it out and perceive that the benefits of switching are too low compared to the time and energy it takes to make the change, we’ll drop the idea and simply stick to what is already comfortable and familiar.

The idea of raising this psychological switching cost is at the very heart of most marketing efforts! We want to create so much passion and loyalty for our products that consumers would never think of switching.

Most current users will find it very difficult to change to another social networking platform because the psychological investment in Facebook is so high … and getting higher every day. That’s where they have their circle of online friends. That’s where they go to check on the Farmville crops. That’s where they go to see the daily pictures of the new grandchild. And that is where they are going to stay. It is their online home. Increasingly, Facebook is their Internet.

We need just one platform

Now some will say that the Google platform offer unique value as a viable ADDITION to Facebook. That is also faulty thinking. People abandoned MySpace because they just didn’t need two. Who has the time to maintain and commit multiple identities, multiple sets of friends? Is Google going to really offer something so uniquely sustainable that Facebook won’t be able to provide a competing alternative if they need to? To really make this work, Google will have to steal massive page views/ad dollars from Facebook.

I know this is unorthodox thinking, but I think this is the conclusion you have to come to if you focus on the fundamentals of human behavior instead of technology and gadgets. Google is not going to be able to catch Facebook, even if Google Plus is amazing. The comment section is yours …

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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