When it comes to social networking, few would argue that Facebook is king. With over 800 million active users, the company has an undoubtedly dominant position in the industry that it helped pioneer. And since its inception in 2004, other tech-players have been eager to drum up some competition. However, no other social networking website has ever been able to generate quite the same kind of buzz as Facebook, which has allowed the company to plow ahead with virtually no real competitors.
But, now Google (GOOG) has entered the fray with its Google+ offering, which has been marketed as a real game changer in terms of the way people interact and communicate via the Internet. The tech giant certainly has a strong reputation to throw behind its social networking initiative, and definitely wields the tools to drive a pleasant user experience, but will it be enough to draw users away from Facebook?
Since it was opened up to the public in September, Google+ has drawn in over 60 million users. And, although it is far from encroaching on Facebook’s territory, the initiative has been quite successful compared to previous attempts by other competitors. Many have been attracted by features that give users more control over how and with whom they share information, as well as the way Google+ is integrated with other Google offerings, such as Gmail. Google also launched a new search tool recently, called Search+, for Google+ users, which has led to some push back from competitors, including Facebook that claim that the mogul is employing anti-competitive tactics.
However, the success of a social networking site is measured not only in users, but in traffic, as well. It is here that Google+ appears to be struggling. It seems that even though many people have flocked to sign up for Google’s latest venture, few have maintained a high level of activity on the site since their initial visit.
The largest obstacle Google+ has faced is its inability to combat the brand loyalty associated with Facebook. The social networking pioneer, in many cases, has several years worth of information about its users within its framework, which people aren’t willing to part with. For many users, it has taken considerable time to build out their social networks on Facebook, a process that not many are likely to want to start over. So even though people are signing up for Google+, many are leaving their accounts largely unutilized.
Given the tremendous head start Facebook has had in building its framwork and user base, it is improbable that even Google will be able to overtake its dominant position in the social networking arena. But that doesn’t mean Google+ will disappear anytime soon. Google’s portfolio of offerings is extensive and users will likely embrace Google+ as a worthwhile add-on to its other services.
Indeed, the site will likely continue to benefit from its integration with other Google offerings, especially given the millions of Gmail users worldwide. And, as more people join the network, overall usage should increase, as well. It may not be the revolutionary tool that some predicted, but if nothing else, it seems that Google+ will likely be a popular second choice for those looking for new ways to stay connected over the Internet.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have any positions in any of the companies mentioned.