How Google could boost Google Plus thanks to Youtube

According to the analysis in my blog post, Google Plus is a slightly more attractive product than Facebook but, while Facebook is very well established, Google is just starting. However, the fact that Facebook won in India, where Orkut was well ahead in terms of number of users, proves that it is possible to overtake the leader. Will Google Plus do so? Time will tell. What could Google do in order to increase the chance? Let’s separate the question into two aspects:

  • Increase the number of users of Google Plus
  • Increase the amount of time users spend on Google Plus (ideally by stealing time from Facebook)

The second is more important. When users start spending more time on Google Plus, they will also invite their friends to join them there rather than on Facebook, while even if everyone is on Google Plus, they might still leave it empty and spend their time on Facebook.

Increasing the number of users of Google Plus

Concerning the first point, Google has a pretty massive advantage, which is its vast user base. But there are two types of Google users: the ones who have an account and the ones who don’t. The first are relatively “easy” to bring on Google Plus. They are already loyal customers, they have a high opinion of Google brand and probably know what social networking is. However, they are relatively few (at least compared to Facebook users): by November 2010, Gmail users were 193 million. Now they must be between 200 and 250 million. If we add up the other Google accounts (iGoogle, Youtube, other apps, even Orkut itself, etc…), we probably get between 350 and 450 million users. Even if Facebook managed to bring them all on Google Plus, it would not be enough to rival Facebook’s critical mass. Then Google also has to tap into the second type of users: unregistered people who perform Google searches. While official statistics talk about roughly one billion people, I have a hard time thinking that half of the people with an internet connection (about 2 billion in the World in 2011) have never opened Google. Anyway,there are 1 to 2 billion users who know what Google is, but are a lot harder to catch. Google has several options for them:

  1. Advertising on Google homepage, but Google has never been a fan of spoiling their white neat home page
  2. Adding references to Google Plus in the search results. For example, if someone looks for a restaurant in Chicago, reviews from Google Plus users or the Google Plus pages of some restaurants in the area (when there are restaurant pages) could be displayed. The challenge here would be that the only information that could be shown to unregistered users would be generic, as opposed to what Google could do for Gmail users, who probably already message with people who are on Google Plus and could be shown their friends’ reviews (if their friends chose to make them public). Anyway, the Google Plus name is catchy enough that people would probably subscribe after seeing generic stuff only
  3. Advertising on other Google products (e.g. on Youtube): on Youtube, there are already video ads. A brief video showing how great Google Plus is would probably be a good way to convince people to join. Of course this would imply either increasing the advertising videos or giving up revenues

Increasing the time users spend on Google Plus

In order to make Google Plus users spend more time on it, Google is exploiting the fact that it is the most visited site in the World. Whenever I look for something on Google, if I have a Google Plus accounts, in the upper right corner of the screen I see my notifications. Oops! Somebody tagged me! I’d better check that out! This would work really well, but only at one condition: that my friends do post content on Google Plus! Which at the moment is not happening. In this initial phase, the critical level of activity to convince people to be active and make the reaction self-sustained (just like a nuclear reaction) is not there yet. Google needs to bring users to be proactive on Google Plus, not just to respond to what their friends are doing. How? This is the difficult question. Google is already working in that direction:

  1. Google already links Picasa accounts to Google Plus and updating photos on Picasa implies sharing them on Google Plus too (unless the album is private)
  2. Google recently introduced “+1” extensions for Chrome, allowing people to “like” whatever they see while browsing and share it with their circles

Could Google do more? Asking people “Do you want to share this on Google Plus?” every time they do a web search would be insane, but there are other choices:

  1. Asking a user whether she or he wants to “like” baseball (when there is a baseball page on Google Plus) after they googled baseball matches for half an hour would be a bit invasive, but might be worth testing on a small number of users
  2. Again, Youtube has the biggest opportunities. Everytime someone creates a playlist or subscribes to a channel, etc… Google could ask whether the user wants to share the event on Google Plus. Additionally, all the comments and the thumbs-up on Youtube should be “powered” by Google Plus and end up in the users’ Google Plus profiles. At the moment, I don’t even see a link between my Youtube account and my Google account, even if I log-in on Youtube with my Gmail
  3. The same is true for Blogger, the blog platform provided by Google. Whenever someone writes a new blog post on Blogger, it would probably be a good idea to ask them “Do you want to share your blog on Google Plus”?

And what would you do if you were Google? How would you increase the popularity of Google Plus?

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