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Former Member
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Over the last week or so I've seen the below graphic a number of times and heard a lot of noise about how awesome Google+ (Google Plus, Google +, G+: what is the proper write up?) must be because of it. I started a little banter based on a G+ post from Chip Rodgers and decided to continue it here because I think that not only did Google have a much easier row to hoe than either Twitter or Facebook, but that this is a perfect example of a dangerous analytic.

So, why is comparing the adoption of Twitter and Facebook to the adoption of G+ not apples and oranges? Just off the top of my head.

  • Facebook started out handicapping itself by only being open to University students. G+ was also pretty selective but only for a few days.
  • Facebook and Twitter were both revolutionary. Before Facebook there was MySpace, but it had a totally different interaction paradigm. People had to get used to it. Twitter was a huge departure from that, because it started as really a broadcast tool and it took a long while for people to utilize the conversational potential of it. If you've used Facebook and/or Twitter before, Google Plus is pretty easy to figure out, Circles aside. Social networking is now largely a known commodity. You don't have to sell anyone on it
  • Facebook and Twitter started from scratch. Google already has millions of users with logins and passwords and profiles and trust. Dipping your toe into the G+ waters has a significantly lower transaction cost than testing out either Facebook or Twitter.
  • People are generally more comfortable living in the cloud now than they were when Twitter and Facebook came out. A lot more people are willing to create a site account on a lark than they used to be.
  • Google Plus had a mobile component from day one, with 30% of adult Americans already having a smartphone. When Twitter first came out I didn't even have texting on my cell phone plan.
  • Virtually everyone has an internet connection somewhere now (mobile and/or otherwise). That wasn't true even a few years ago.

My basic premise is that the second or third gas station company probably grew a lot faster than the first, because there were a lot more cars on the road. Same with Google Plus. I'm not saying G+ isn't amazing (I think the jury is still out on that) I'm just saying it would have been more amazing if Google hadn't ramped up that fast, provided of course their offering wasn't as abysmal as Buzz.

So, what makes this a dangerous analytic? Because most people may not take those enumerated factors into account when evaluating the success of G+. It would be easy to look at the raw numbers, out of context, and assume that Google Plus is 50 times better or more popular than Twitter and Facebook, and that just isn't fair. Does it have promise? Absolutely. Unless we have a graphic that the ten million people who signed up for G+ also turned off their Twitter and Facebook accounts, I'm not sure we can say anything about its comparative value.

In another 6 months we can look at measures of engagement (how many posts, comments, replies, etc. per user per time period as an example) across the networks and then start to evaluate how successful G+ is once the shine has worn out a little. And that could be some valuable information.