One word: Enterprise.
Thinking of Google+ as a Facebook challenger today is the wrong perspective. Facebook is firmly entrenched as the personal social networking leader. It’s going to take a lot to unseat them. And despite the wide criticism of Google+ over the past year, it’s the worthiest challenger. Google just won’t beat Facebook by attacking Facebook’s core business directly. It will challenge by gaining traction in a different market first.
“Social Networking for the Enterprise” is pretty much useless to me on its own. I know I don’t represent everyone. The success of Yammer and Salesforce Chatter indicates there are definitely people controlling enterprise budgets who are willing to pay. But I’ve tried them at two companies, and they just haven’t gained any traction whatsoever.
The enterprise social network doesn’t provide a welcome break, a distraction from work to do something other than work. That’s a role that Facebook and Twitter can both fill. But if I try to take a break by going to the enterprise social network, guess what; it feels like work.
What if I could go to the enterprise social network to find useful company-private information that I need to get my work done? Good idea. But now I have a Catch-22. There’s no useful information in there, so why would I go there? I’m never there, so I never leave any information behind for anyone else.
The fact is, I already have too many haystacks where I can put my needles. I just don’t have one way that’s good enough to get the right needle back out of the haystacks later.
Which brings me back to Google+. As a standalone social network — business or personal — I don’t have much use for it, but when it’s sitting there next to Gmail and Hangouts, I just can’t help using it as a company-private blog. At first, it’s just a place to put notes to myself, but I share them so that others can find them too. Once a few people start doing that, or a small team commits to doing it for the good of the team, the game is over. It can’t help but take off.
Every time I use Gmail and Hangouts, they remind me that Google+ is there. Yammer and Chatter can’t get close enough to Gmail and Hangouts, and I’ll easily forget they exist.
Right now, a Google+ vs. Facebook death match isn’t all that interesting. But once all of Google’s Apps for Business users get accustomed to using Google+ at work, and Google lets them take their posts with them via Multiple Sign-In, Google+ will become a whole lot more relevant for personal social networking.
If Microsoft gets their Yammer and Skype acquisitions plugged together, a few years from now, we might even be looking at a Google vs. Microsoft social networking showdown, with Facebook trailing the pack. Or maybe Facebook could even double down on its relationship with Microsoft and join forces against a surging Google+.
One thing is for sure. Google+ still has plenty of potential.