In the media frenzy leading up to Google+, a slew of articles preemptively warned that Facebook should be shaking in its boots, painting Google+ as a defacto “Facebook Competitor,” even implying a gladiatorial showdown where two social media juggernauts would enter the Thunderdome, but only one would come out alive. But after using it for a few weeks now, I see some pronounced differences between the two that make me far less sure that Google+ is ready, or even intended, to cut Facebook’s unbridled success.
First, the Google+ user relationship experience appears more akin to Twitter than Facebook. Unlike Facebook, which requires a reciprocal acceptance, the structure of relationships in Google+ allows any user to add any other user to their Circles. While these Circles allow for unique segmentation of privacy, data, and more, the “follow anyone you want” structure puts the focus less on mutual personal relationships and more on aggregating larger numbers of followers. (Yes, people still care about # of followers)
Does this mean that it’s Twitter that’s in trouble? Not exactly. Granted, they do need to keep a close eye on the increasing capabilities of Google+, but for the smaller Twitter, simplicity is their core value proposition. The 140-character limit works for a variety of uses, and the lack of comment threads makes content consumption a breeze for those who are browsing their feeds.
Second, as Jason Falls recently noted, time spent on the Internet is not a zero-sum game. No one says you have to pick a monogamous social-media spouse. We spend our time on a myriad of sites, and while the introduction of Google+ isn’t exactly a win for Facebook and Twitter, the grim reaper isn’t on their doorstep either.
Basically, despite the undeniable tension of a Tarantino-style Mexican standoff between the three, there’s plenty of room in this town for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to all coexist, maybe even peacefully, with no threat in the near future of any of these social media behemoths falling.
Don’t get me wrong: Google+ is a very real player in the content marketing space. The platform is built to share targeted content and to encourage sharing and conversations – no character limits, less anonymity, larger reach, easier segmentation, integration with Google search, and an open comment system (as long as the post is public, anyone can comment) make Google+ a fantastic place to move your followers to your owned channels.
But Facebook and Twitter still hold on to unique value propositions that Google+ isn’t positioned to infringe upon, and this type of competition can only mean good things for the social media user. Facebook and Twitter will be forced to continually improve and respond to the needs of their customers if they want to keep Google at bay.
However, there remains a key question born of both corporate and user frustrations: Is this yet another social media profile that brands will need to develop a strategy for? And will users find the time to maintain interest in three separate platforms simultaneously?
The answer to the first question is yes, and it’s not a bad thing. Google+ is poised to offer brands new features to engage with their fans that no other platform can. Your brand’s eggs will need to be spread across another basket, but consider it a new opportunity. With the introduction of Google+, there are even more chances to engage fans where they already are, instead of trying to interrupt them while they’re being entertained, or waiting for a bus, or reading a magazine.
The answer to the second question, will people have time for all three, is a bit tougher to answer this early on — but it will undoubtedly be the mortal wound for whichever of these platforms blinks first by holding back on innovation or not listening to what consumers actually want.
So let’s start the debate here: Will you find the time to be an active user of all three? If you think one will inevitably be the first to fall, which one and why? Is Twitter ultimately too simple to stick? Or has Facebook become such a behemoth that it can’t stay nimble enough to keep up with it’s hopelessly broad range of users?