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Is Google+ ready for brands?

3 min read


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Are you excited about the pending start of business profiles for Google+?

  • Not sure: 25.13%
  • Yes: 45.55%
  • No: 29.32%

I couldn’t be more torn on the subject of Google+. On the one hand, I want a viable Facebook competitor — I think competition is ultimately good for everyone. On the other hand, I’m not willing to leave my friends on Facebook behind just to spite Mark Zuckerberg. I’m petty, but I’m not that petty.

And if you’ve got a Google+ account, I’m sure you’re faced with a similar problem. Many people you know have a Google+ account, but very few people are using it. I think part of the problem is that we don’t exactly know what it’s for. There’s an adage that “Facebook is your living room, LinkedIn is the office and Twitter is the bar after work.” So what does that leave for Google+? Because you can’t have two living rooms or two offices. You can have more than one after-hours bar, but let’s be honest — you’ll always play favorites. I don’t like Google+’s odds on any of those scores.

So is Google+ the library — where I read a lot but don’t chat much? Is it the marketplace, where everyone is shouting for my attention? Is it a debate society? A clubhouse for the tech elite? A ghost town?

And then there’s the specter of brands. I don’t know about you, but the number of people following me on Google+ who I have never heard of is coming perilously close to equaling the number of actual contacts I have on the network. I follow those people back — but I put them all in a Circle labeled “No Idea” and I never think about them again. I’m willing to bet a lot of users will do something similar, in an attempt to be polite but not familiar. The idea of having every brand under the sun try to connect with me, without my invitation, is enough to make me want to wander away from the platform for good.

Facebook succeeded (in part) for two reasons. It started off as a closed network of students, giving it a natural constituency at first — which it later turned into the seed of a much larger community. It also kept brands largely out of the picture for the first few years. Google+ is trying to follow this model, but it’s doing so at an accelerated pace — a few months of beta followed by a few more months without brands. And the community still isn’t there yet. Here’s hoping Google is wise enough to wait for its social network experiment to mature a little before opening the floodgates.