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RIP Google+...Hail King Mark!

I bet Mr Zuckerberg can barely contain his laughter...


...after Google's latest ill-advised foray into the world of social media, as this is only the most recent of Google’s embarrassing succession of failures in the arena. First Orkut, then Wave. Then Buzz. Then Google Health and Google Powermeter. Now Google+.

When Larry Page became CEO of Google in 2011, he embraced Google+ with a passion. He even tied his employee's bonuses to the company's success (or failure) in social. Was this supreme confidence in The Big G's brand, or extreme arrogance in the face of more-than-capable competition and market leader, Facebook?

So, what went wrong this time? From where I'm sitting, there's several reasons...

  1. A head-on challenge to Facebook was an attempt to displace a well-entrenched social network. Even if Google had been able to make significant improvements on Facebook, which it didn't, Facebook - as the incumbent network - could have quickly emulated them. This would have eliminated any incentive for people to leave Facebook and join a new network, particularly since all of their current friends and connections were on Facebook and not on Google+.

    Nope, trying to take down Facebook by offering something similar to Facebook is like Microsoft taking down Apple iPods by offering Zunes. It's never going to happen.

  2. People preferred Facebook to Google+, primarily because Google’s approach to social wasn't fun. The assumption of Google+, like Google Health and Google PowerMeter, was that users enjoyed spending time organising their information. Geeks may like putting things in order, but 'normal' people don’t. Google keeps making the same error over and over again, because it listens to its employees ahead of its customers. Simples.

  3. Google are guilty of believing their own mission statement to be true - "To organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." This is wrong - totally. Organising the world’s information would involve building a gigantic library. Libraries are wonderful things, but libraries have never been popular or profitable. You certainly can't engage in social interaction in're only allowed to speak in hushed tones!

    Fortunately for Google, its core business doesn’t depend on "organising the world's information." Its business depends on helping us find stuff at lightning speed, at the very moment when we want it, without distractions. It's clean. It's neat. It's elegant. It works. It fits our lives as if it had always been there.

  4. Google+ singularly failed to offer something genuinely new. They piled headlong into a crowded market place without any clear differentiations - unless you include the utterly confusing and unpopular 'Circles'! Users never truly understood how they worked and they simply served as yet another example of a nice idea that wasn't thought properly through.

Instead of choosing to 'swim with the sharks' in a head-to-head competition with Facebook, Google could have been pursuing a “blue ocean” strategy by competing in a new area where there was little competition. The key to this approach is to identify a segment of customers whose needs are not being met and generate more value for that segment sooner. Health and energy might have been such opportunities, but Google missed them because it was focused on producing a thing that people didn’t want and hadn't asked for. They should have been delighting people by solving a problem, perhaps a problem they didn't even know they had.

Google needs to rethink its social mission and find new areas where it can truly delight its customers. It's not enough for Google to create a "new" company. To succeed in social, it has to practice providing what customer's want, not what they think they want.