Raise your hand if you think Google+ is Google's first attempt at a social network. OK, put all those hands down. Ever hear of Google Wave or Google Buzz? Not many have, so don't fret if you raised your hand.
Kudos for trying, but this is my opinion on why Google Plus (or is that Google Plus Sign?) will not succeed. The site has already reached 25 million visitors, faster than any other social network has done before. But times are different -- we know what social networks are now. Google has a lot of fans, including me, so we are willing to try all of Google's new stuff. Early adopters, they call us. Will it really keep growing this fast? I don't think so.
I also read one commentary this week that indicated 50 percent of Facebook users will migrate to Google's latest attempt at a social network. Really?! Again, I don't think so.
Why not? Consider a few reasons some other naysayers have noted:
- Too much like Facebook, so why change?
- Too complicated. Facebook is so much easier.
- Only one cool feature. Google+'s Circles feature seems to be the only attraction.
- Do you really want to move your whole life from Facebook? That's a lot of effort!
Maybe these are valid reasons, but the main reason I believe Google will never have its NAME on a successful social network is because it breaks one of the primary positioning principles, marketing a name that already holds a position in our minds. The first principle of positioning is that a company, product, or service can only stand for ONE thing in the mind of the prospect.
Google stands for SEARCH. Facebook stands for social network (if you need evidence, consider the 2010 movie by the same name or ask any of its almost 1 billion users). Google can't displace Facebook's position. Can it create a new position? Sure, but the company better re-invent social networking and call it something else.
To Google's credit, the search giant is always willing to try a lot of things and when they don't work, discard them. Just this month, Google retired four major projects that at one point each were considered the next great product to come from Google. Note: They all had Google's name on them.
Now let's visit a few of those successful products of Google that do NOT bear the name: Android, YouTube, Blogger. And therein lies the success. No "Google" in front of them.
Many know Google owns these brands, but in our minds, we are able to easily compartmentalize these unique products. Android (aka Droids) = smartphone. YouTube = online video. Blogger = blog. And Google = search. Google+ cannot equal social network. The + doesn't do anything in our minds to differentiate it from the search engine we know and love so much.
So Google, go find a budding social network and buy it. Make sure it has a good positioning name. Then lend your great technology to the product and make it a star. You might then have a better chance at competing with Facebook. Don't abandon time-tested positioning principles and start marketing something with the Google name on it.
Oh, and while you're at it, make another attempt to buy Groupon. Google Offers won't succeed either.