Everyone loves to declare Google Plus a “failure”. Even some of Google’s own employees have come out publicly saying that from the executive level down to the low-level employees, they “don’t get it” [social]. However, there are a few reasons that Google Plus can still win the social network war, despite a late start and a somewhat botched launch. Some of the positives are accidental, while others are just solid user-friendly engineering practices.
Yet the secret weapon that Google has in the chamber is actually hiding right before your eyes, and could turn the other social networks on their heads faster than they realize.
The Google Plus mobile app blows Facebook out of the water. It’s not only faster to load and more responsive, sharing posts is easy and doesn’t need all the content to load. All of the permissions carry over from the main site and its very easy to quickly add people to circles. Have you tried friending someone on Facebook’s mobile app? You might as well call them up and ask them to friend you.
One of the most noticeable areas is in image processes and delivery. The google plus app matches Instagram in the speed at which they serve you images, an impressive feat considering that the image delivery is what Instagrams entire business revolves around. With the Instagram acquisition, I expect that Facebook will close the gap in this area, but they still have a lot of work to do on general usability and stability.
Google Plus hasn’t opened up their platform to write applications the way that Twitter and Facebook have. As a result, you get less noise, more content, and a higher quality bar for comments from your networks. This is a huge plus; although it will make it difficult for them in other ways.
I would expect Google to be very selective about which services that they will allow syndication from to help support this area of strength while still meeting the needs and wants of their users. In the short-term, you can enjoy cool photos and other posts without having to hear about how your friend Bob just checked into the local 7-11 for a Big Gulp. Besides, the google plus 1 buttons are so much more satisfying to click than the facebook like button, right?
If you need a list of people to get you started, check out my other post on my favorite people to follow on google plus.
People like pictures; just look at Pinterest and Instragram which are both built primarily around the concept of sharing pictures with other people. Google Plus has migrated towards a more visual UI design with their most recent update and their mobile app is almost entirely focused around the images of the posts and not the other content.
Facebook on the other hand has a variety of sizes and styles of text, making it more dense and time consuming to try and sort through which content is worth looking at. Although Twitter is only text, it was built around the expectation that you will only be reading text, and clicking through to pictures if you want, so its less relevant to them.
People trust their friends and acquaintances before they trust the internet (as they should, unless you have crappy friends). With Google Plus, any Google search will now serve you links that your friends have shared and +1’d mixed in with the organic search results. Often these results are going to be much more accurate and will give pages a boost that may not have had a chance of being found. All the more reason for writers, bloggers, and publishers to get all of their content on the Google’s platform.
Tons of blogs and other content providers are moving towards Google Plus because by linking their site as a contributor and adding a rel=author tag to their posts, it signals to Google that their content is the original piece of work and helps to prove ”canonical” status in an ever-growing culture of plagiarism among some of the more traffic oriented sites that I won’t name. This in turn will help them get better search engine rankings and leads me to the greatest power that Google holds over the other social networks.
Have you ever seen a picture of someone next to a link when you get a list of Google search results? If not, here is an example search that will pull up one of my posts with my picture by it. The picture not only draws attention to the result, it also will connect you directly to my Google Plus page where I’ve shown that I am a contributor to this blog. Pretty cool right?
Savvy publishers are catching on. One experiment found that linking your Google Plus profile increased click through rate by up to 150%, an incredible number. Since setting up this functionality is easy and Google’s Webmaster Tools integration gives access to the +1 analytics, content providers are flocking to Google Plus to take advantage of this feature before everyone does.
This is one strength that no one is going to be able to match. By using the weight of their bread and butter search, Google has effectively created a moat that Facebook and Twitter won’t be able to respond to…unless they go and build their own search engine.