The changes to Google+ are great. But they don’t matter

changes to google+By Mark Schaefer

What an exciting week of announcements from Google!

Of course many of us in the social media space were focused on the interface improvements on Google+, but the company also announced:

  • It is re-charging the crucial Maps effort, including graphics, animations, and local landmarks
  • Partnership with NASA on a new quantum computer laboratory to study artificial intelligence
  • A host of specialized apps for Google Glass called Glassware, including alliances with Evernote, CNN, and Elle
  • A new free photo storage system that gives you an option to let Google select, tag, and improve your photos for you
  • A Spotify-like streaming music feature called All Access.
  • Significant enhancements to Google Now, a competitor to Siri.

I wanted to stand up and cheer. In fact, I did stand up and cheer. What amazing stuff!

So you might be surprised when a reporter asked me how this will help Google+ win customers away from Facebook and I answered “It won’t.”

Arguably Google+ already had a better interface than Facebook. So why would an even spiffier interface make a difference? It’s not about the interface. It’s about psychology.

In life, we enjoy having choice most of the time. We like picking out a car or a breakfast cereal from a long aisle of choices. But on the web, we don’t want choice. We only have the psychological bandwidth for one Twitter, one LinkedIn, one YouTube. And yes, One Facebook.

Moving from Facebook is not like switching to another website or even another wireless carrier. It’s switching a lifestyle — and that is very, very difficult to get people to do.

According to research from the Social Habit, 80 percent of Americans between 12 and 24 have a Facebook account and are active at least every other day. That is incredible market penetration. Facebook is the largest media entity in history. And their user interface is terrible. Their record on privacy is terrible. Their ads are annoying. None of that seems to matter, right?

What Google does not seem to realize is that they do not have an interface problem. They have a marketing problem. They need to be spending tons of money to connect to “the cool kids” creating influence and lifestyle choices in junior high and high schools. They need to make Google+ teen-fashionable, not more like Pinterest.

I absolutely love what this company is accomplishing. To a large extent, they are creating our future. I’m just not sure if or when Google+ is going to be part of it on a mass scale.

Now I know there are a lot of passionate Plussers out there ready to skewer me in the comment section. That’s OK. All I ask is that instead of focusing on how much you love G+, let’s focus on the concept of platform adoption. Are these changes enough to get Google+ to “tip?

SXSW 2016 3Mark 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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