Google+ seems to be everywhere. It already has over 25 million users and it has gained a very respectable amount of media coverage. There are numerous businesses interested in Google+, even if, it seems, regular people mostly are not.
I do consider myself to be quite social media savvy, as well as having a decent social life, in real life. Yet it surprises me that regardless of the attention Google+ is getting, I have not been able to attract enough people in my circles, whilst judging by the look of the people in my circles, neither have they.
Therefore I think it is important to discuss the difficulties of attracting people to join new social media networks from my point of view and try to encourage further discussion on how to get your friends to move from one platform to another.
Google+ was launched with invitation only in late June and it quickly gained an impressive number of users. Even in the beta phase, Google+ was able to attract over 20 million users in its first weeks. I was one of them and a handful of my other social networks friends were too. Google+ seemed like an interesting concept, and being created by Google definitely caught peoples’ attention.
There is no shortage of social networks available, but Google+ seemed fresh, something new to the market, even though the main application of it remain fairly similar to already existing platforms: to facilitate communication and sharing between people.
People received invites through other social media networks and what the majority of people did was have a quick look around before passing it on and inviting people they knew. My main source of invitees was Facebook and as it does not let you do export email addresses I found it a bit challenging to find the contact details. I had 100 invites, of which I ended up sending out around 80 of them to my close (real life) friends and to a bunch contacts I have on social networks.
In the following days I became an active user of Google+ and the more I used it the more my real life conversation topics would revolve around it. I talked about its applications in private life, how sharing was easy with in different circles and how convenient huddle (an instant messaging for mobile application of Google+) was when feeling like chatting with someone, or when asking for a quick opinion.
To my surprise, in the first weeks I only managed to get a small number of people in my circles. I mainly wanted to include people I already knew so I could easily share with close friends, acquaintances and professional contacts. What was surprising was that even though all the people I invited were active Facebook users, they did not seem to make the move towards Google+.
People are reluctant to change by their nature, but I did not expect people to be so prejudiced towards a new social network. My fair share of word of mouth mainly resulted in replies on how difficult it is to learn to use a new platform, how misleading the privacy settings can be and that people simply did not have interest in expanding their social networks further.
Thus, the decision making process of joining a new social network seems to be more complex that what I had first thought. People seem to go through a series of stages similar to commonly accepted theory of buying behaviour, and as in terms of buying and in terms of joining a network, disturbance can and will occur at every stage. Some of my friends actually signed up, but never logged in after the first time. Joining a new network takes a minute, but the decision to make so seems to take much longer.
I consider the people that are in my circles now to be early adopters. By theory, it will take a while before anything reaches masses, but as technology developments are fast by their nature, one would think that Google+ would be more widely used.
It can also be said, as some claim, that any product adaptation is based on the experience the customer has when using the product for the first time. Maybe my friends have not seen Google+ as a pleasant experience and therefore are not interested in using it further. Some may also have been scared by the beta phase invite only policy; it may have felt as too much of an insider thing.
What is left to see is what happens now that Google+ is open for everyone. I am looking forward to see if in the longer term more of my friends will join and how will they start using Google+.
It would be great to hear your thoughts about this, have you perhaps encountered similar issues or have you been able to get your friends to join new social networks?
Anna Kraappa is a Marketing and Public Relations graduate from the University of Lincoln and the Metropolia Business School in Helsinki. She is currently studying for her MSc in Marketing at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow Anna on Twitter here or add her to your Circles on Google+ here.