How Google + Hangouts Could Actually Hurt the Platform

by Ken Mueller on May 16, 2012 · 20 comments

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google hangouts How Google + Hangouts Could Actually Hurt the PlatformThis past weekend my daughter Elizabeth graduated from college. She and her friends and roommates have gone their separate ways, but unlike my days as a college grad in the eighties, she has the ability to communicate with her friends every day. And she does. Between Facebook, Twitter, and texting, Elizabeth’s life is a near constant conversation with a group of friends that is scattered all over the place.

The other night she and a few of her friends went online and chatted via a Google + Hangout for awhile and I’m sure they had a great time. But the interesting thing about this group of friends is that the Hangouts are the only reason they are on Google+. They aren’t creating content, reacting to content, or sharing content there. That’s what they do on Facebook, not Google+. In fact, the picture of their hangout that I’m using was shared on Facebook. And my daughter? I just checked, and her last post on G+ was more than six months ago. Pretty much the same for her friends across the board.

In the Social Media Marketing class that I taught at Messiah College this past semester, I made sure my students were aware of, and using, various social platforms. Google + was the least interesting for them, and again, the main draw was the Hangouts. No sharing, no content creation, just hanging out on video with a group of friends.

Late last year, Google rolled out what seemed to be a brilliant campaign to draw users to Google +, with a commercial and video featuring the Muppets using Google Hangouts.

It was a great commercial, and it got people talking, and perhaps, signing up for G+. Google knew that the idea of multiple people conversing via video was a real draw. But I get the feeling that many have showed up for that feature, but haven’t waded into the deeper waters of the platform.

And much of this conjecture is bolstered a bit by the latest research from RJ Metrics as reported in the Fast Company article, New Google+ Study Reveals Minimal Social Activity, Weak User Engagement. While the platform is touting numbers in the 170-million range, many are questioning what those numbers really mean. Compared to other platforms, engagement and activity are on the decline. And if a large number of people, especially younger users, are there solely for the Hangout feature, then we need to reinterpret those numbers.

Google calls G+ a social network. Others say it really isn’t a social network, but that it’s real value lies in its integration with search and SEO. But if many users aren’t posting content, reacting to content, or sharing content, then that won’t be happening either. And while my daughter, and my students are only interested in the Hangouts, I know that some older folks feel the same way; they like the hangouts for business purposes, but aren’t using the other features of the platform.

Now I don’t want to make a bold comparison to MySpace, because I think G+ is very different, but with MySpace, the most important feature, the music interface, dominated the platform. Sadly, MySpace waited too long to realize this, and they became redundant because others could easily replicate and improve upon what they are doing. It wasn’t that unique.

Now, with Google +, one of the best features are the Google Hangouts. It can draw people in, but…it might also be the most easily replicated feature. While others can create similar video chat platforms, it’s the search capabilities of Google and G+ that are not so easily copied. This makes Google+ vulnerable.

If Skype or Facebook (or both, since they have already partnered up), were to come up with a similar product that allowed for multiple people in a video chat, they would slow the number of users migrating to G+ for the Hangouts. Plus, many of those users might prefer to hold their video chats on Facebook where there are already 900-million users, giving Facebook greater “time spent on site” numbers. I’m actually surprised this hasn’t been developed and launched yet.

Google + is vulnerable for a variety of other reasons, and so far, I’m still not seeing large SEO benefits from having my content on G+, and I’m getting far more traffic from most other platforms, including Pinterest. That’s just me. But if the Hangouts can be one-upped elsewhere, we may just see a lot fewer accounts, and a lot less time spent, on Google +.

What are your thoughts? Is this something that Google + should be worried about, and others should be looking at as a way of competing? Now that Google + has been around nearly a year, what are your thoughts on the platform?

 

 How Google + Hangouts Could Actually Hurt the Platform
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13 comments
alastairmck
alastairmck

YOUTUBE!

 

You're forgetting Youtube. Hangouts on Air get streamed through & saved to, Youtube.

 

Facebook and Skype (Skype doesn't livestream does it?) and MS don't have that. Where are they gonna go? Vimeo? Unlikely.

 

And generation Z understand Youtube.

 

I think G+ Communities have helped to draw attention to G+ too, but I don't deny it is still the Empty Quarter, and there is enormous SM fatigue: "G+? I really don't need *another* social network!"

 

I'm still quietly confident.... because of Youtube. 

C_Pappas
C_Pappas

I think you may be on to something here... We use gmail at my company and I signed up for G+ just to use the hang-outs feature to connect with employees located all across the country. That's it. I didnt dabble, share, read, nothing (I may have left 1 comment for 1 person and then was out of there).

LizJostes
LizJostes

I have only had a few hangouts myself, but I've always questioned the user numbers G+ puts out there. There's a huge difference between registered users and active users. I do think, though, there's an entirely separate group that do share content in a very "I'm going to post my link here to potentially help me in search, and then click away" mentality.

mdyoder
mdyoder

I totally agree, Ken. The primary reason I use Google+ is for the Hangout feature. I use it weekly for meetings with my interns. I'd use it more, but most of my clients don't use Google+. Additionally, since Google owns Blogger and my blog is on the Blogger platform, it does make it easy to share my blog posts via Google+. But, I actually get most of my traffic from other sources including Networked Blogs.

sobecreation
sobecreation

I'm just waiting for Google to create a way to capture the conversations that happen in Google Hangouts (voice-recognition?). Since they always tie everything back to the relevancy of their search results, it makes sense that they would figure out a way to mine data from our Hangout conversations to learn more about us. 

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

Do you think Google is trying to entice users to come over to use Hangouts as a way to get them to start using more of the other features of Google+? Would that even work?

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @alastairmck True, but for my daughter and her friends, I'm talking the private conversations, so YouTube isn't an issue for them. But you are right, the livestream is a definite plus for more "show" types of things. Ustream would be another service. But again, I think this might detract from G+ rather than help it, because that's the only reason many of these folks are using it.

Latest blog post: facebook-search-bar-1

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @LizJostes That's the only thing I do over there. Never stay there for anything.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @mdyoder Hmm. Now I have to try to convince you to move away from Blogger to Wordpress...

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @sobecreation Interesting. But if you think there have been privacy uproars over on Facebook, can you imagine how users would feel if Google did this? I think we'd really see a mass exodus from the platform. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @Anthony_Rodriguez yes, I think that's why they did that campaign with the Muppets. It's a great draw. The problem is, once they get there, do they want to use any of the other features? I think the younger generation is saying, "No". They have a lot invested in Facebook. That's why I think that if Facebook launched a similar product, it could be really rough for G+.  I'm a marketer working with small businesses, and I'm not finding much reason to use G+ other than sharing my blog posts. My clients customers aren't there. I think the numbers are highly inflated. For instance, my daughter is there for the hangouts, but never does anything else, and she is a HUGE social user, particularly with Facebook and Twitter. 

alastairmck
alastairmck

 @KenMueller Yep. Again, I don't disagree. It could all go either way.

 

But you mentioned the unrecognised importance of MSN and music (I realise this thread is a few month old) and HOAs have the audio codecs* for bands (and importantly, wannabe bands) to exploit it. It might not be too long before HOAs play a much more integral role in Gen Z lives. 

 

G+ is the keystone to Google's product range and across their platforms. Unless you think Win 8 is going to turn the corner, Android is a dominant force, possibly *the* dominant force, in mobile and is likely to become even more dominant in your **disruptive divas' lifestyles, making G+ more significant for them - from Play, to Drive, to Talk, to Latitude, to Maps, to Ingress, to Calendar, to Events, to Picasa, to Youtube, to Contacts, to Wallet, to Glass ("does this Google Glass suit me, Daddy?") and the things they haven't told us about yet. 

 

http://youtu.be/DPHGV2-qRaM

** http://travelllll.com/2012/12/03/disruptive-divas-are-on-their-way/

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

 @KenMueller Yeah, I don't really use it either. But if they used messaging while folks were doing hangouts they might get more interest. Just thinking out loud.

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