Google+ has provided a alternate social media experience than Facebook for a while now, and yet critics continue to point to Google+'s continued lack of user engagement as a sign of failure. But critics of Google+ misunderstand a key principle of adopting new technology.
On the Internet, there is a rule of thumb that something must be not only better, but 10 times better if it is to overtake the reigning market leader. Google has been steadily plugging Google+ into its other core products (e.g., Search, YouTube, Places, and Gmail) over the last year, and now they're at the point where they may have crossed the 10x threshold with Google+. If this is true, the massive exodus from Facebook to Google+ may not be far off.
It's time for an updated comparison of Google+ vs. Facebook. Here's a baker's dozen reasons why Google+ is approaching (if it hasn't already hit) the point of being 10x better than Facebook and an impending influx in engagement.
1. Google+ is Google's Glue
Google's Vic Gundotra recently told The Verge that Google+ shouldn't be thought of as simply a social network akin to Facebook. Instead, he refers to Google+ as Google's "social spine" so that Google may provide "one seamless experience" to its users.
"We will invest in fewer brands. We will go big with them. And we will unify your identity and your relationships across all of those, and so things just work seamlessly." - Google's Vic Gundotra
Google+ is a social network. And it's the rest of Google, too.
2. Google is Winning the Perception Battle on Privacy
Both Google and Facebook have faced their share of issues when it comes to privacy. Google recently unified its privacy profile despite much scrutiny, but Facebook's seemingly purposeful privacy blunders paired with CEO Mark Zuckerberg's lax history towards user privacy are giving Google the edge in the public's perception of which company respects consumer privacy more. In the long run, this will be a differentiating factor among social networks.
3. Facebook Gave Up Leverage With Timeline
Many brands spent thousands of dollars building up Facebook pages with custom tabs and widgets. Without warning, Facebook announced Timeline and required businesses to migrate.
As a result, brands may be more likely to diversify some of their social investments into Google+ now that they have fewer assets on Facebook. Some may even be downright soured by their lost investments in Facebook as an online platform and looking for a viable alternative.
4. Google+ Circles, Social Search and The Sales Cycle
Google+ content has been appearing more in Google's search results since they rolled out Search Plus Your World. Businesses with longer sales cycles will increasingly benefit when they create and share content on Google+ during the initial phases of the consumer buying cycle. Consumers will in turn include these brands in their Google+ circles. As a result, brands on Google+ will be more visible in search results when the prospective buyers begin to use more commercially viable terms later on in the sales process.
5. More Friction-Free Sharing in Google+
Google+ has been putting a lot of effort into reducing the friction it takes to share something on social media. Even seemingly minor decreases in the time required to complete a task can lead to an increase in the number of times users will complete the task.
Google+'s Instant Upload uploads photos you take on your tablet and smartphone in the background so they're at your fingertips when you're ready to share them with your circles. Compare this with clunky new Facebook Groups sharing features that displays who saw your status update (get ready for high school friends and cousins to say, "Why didn't you share my post? I know you saw it!"), and it appears that Google is paying closer attention to the concept of friction in social sharing.
6. Google+ Events
In July Google announced Google+ Events, an easy way to create and manage registration for personal or business events. Google+ Events come with a feature called Party Mode, which takes all of the photos taken by attendees of the event and automatically threads them together on the Event page.
This is where the Google+ as a social network strategy starts to make sense. If people see utility in neat new features like Party Mode, they'll begin to invite their friends to engage with objects within Google+. Slowly but surely, Google+ will gain traction and engagement through this behavior.
7. Google+ Local, Maps and Reviews
Google got rid of Google Places when Google+ consumed it to form Google+ Local. When the dust from this transition settles, Google will be able to leverage its built-in Google Maps audience and its new Zagat-powered review system to get businesses claiming their branded Google+ Pages. Just like with events, Google+ Local will help Google bring in users by a form of Internet osmosis.
8. Google+ Hangouts Commoditize Web Show Production
Have you participated in a Google+ Hangout on Air yet? If you have, then you'd know that Google is investing heavily into Google+ as a web video production platform. Hangouts are abstract in nature, but can be easily modified to fit many tried-and-true production formats. It's easy to live-stream events, host a Q&A with an expert, or put on a panel.
With ever-expanding Hangout add-ons such as professional lower thirds, a virtual cameraman, and even a closed captioning/live transcripting tool, Google+ will help Google further its virtual monopoly on video content by pairing the organization and hosting of YouTube with bringing the cost of online video production close to zero in Google+ Hangouts.
9. Google+ Hangouts on Air Bring Scale to Content Production
Google+ Hangouts are cool, but Hangouts on Air are event more impressive because they empower you to livestream your Hangouts via your YouTube channel. Even better, your Hangout is archived to your YouTube channel automatically when you're finished.
Hangouts on Air gives brands the ability to create one form of content and then easily re-purpose it in the form of video (i.e., YouTube channel), images (i.e., screenshots for a slide deck or Pinterest), and even text (i.e., embed the video alongside the auto-generated YouTube transcript).
Check out the recent Hanging Out and Talking Squarespace I hosted on Big Picture Web to get an idea for what Hangouts can do:
Bonus idea: Log in to your Hangout on Air from more than one tablet/smartphone at an event to livestream it from multiple devices. As the administrator of your Hangout, you could then produce your own professional show with multiple camera angles.
10. A Hangout is the New Facetime
Thanks to a recent update to their smartphone and tablet version of Google+, Google now makes your device ring when you're invited to a Hangout. And just like that, Google+ Hangouts sat down and ate the lunch of Apple's Facetime.
11. Google+ on the iPad is Amazing
Facebook has historically lacked an impressive tablet app. In contrast, Google recently released major updates to both the Android and iOS versions of Google+ tablet and smartphone apps. If the future of the web is mobile, Google is way ahead of Facebook in this category. Google+ vs. Facebook in the mobile category isn't even fair.
12. Indexing New Objects for the Future of Google
At the end of the day, Google is thinking long-term with Google+. They've made their money with Google Search by indexing content and allowing people to sift through it effectively, all while showing us targeted ads. Imagine if they could do the same with other "objects" on the social web such as brands, people, even physical places. Google+ is the path to this information to Google, and you can bet they won't stop until they've mapped and monetized it all.
13. Integrated with Google Glass
The last thing to say is that you know Google+ will be deeply integrated with Google Glass when the futuristic eye wear becomes available to consumers in 2014. Facebook doesn't have first-person sky diving in squirrel suits. Google+ does.
What do you think when it comes to Google+ vs. Facebook? Is Google+ building a critical mass or does the staggering fan base of Facebook reign supreme over the new bells and whistles of Google+. Share your thoughts on Facebook if you prefer Facebook, Google+ if you prefer Google+, or in the comments below if you just want to hash out the details.
Update: Looks like the ACSI agrees with me. Customer satisfaction with Google+ is first among social networks while Facebook ranked last.