Google Plus LogoLast week WSJ ran an article entitled “There’s No Avoiding Google+” on the front page. In short, it highlighted the drive by Google to make Google+ pervasive across other Google services.

In one of the most telling quotes in the story, Bradley Horowitz, a VP at Google, says “The entry points to Google+ are many, and the integrations are more every day.”

However, despite reaching 105.1 million global unique visits in October (via Comscore), Google+ is struggling to drive real usage, with users only spending 12 minutes a month on the site (via Google in June). (Stats from this Mashable article)

Google’s Fatal Google+ Errors

While Google has effectively tied Google+ to services and features (such as Hangouts on Air), today it has no hope of becoming a competitive social network. Here is why:

  • There is no Google+ identity. I don’t mean a brand identity. I mean Eric Wittlake, as a person, does not exist on Google+.
  • Google has users running in Circles. Circles were born out of a real need to better filter what you see and better control what you distribute. Google tried to kill both birds with one stone and it just doesn’t work.

Until Google solves the first point, they have a major disadvantage. Until they solve the second, circles are not a benefit.

The Missing Google+ Identity

I have a single account on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest…, on every “social network” I am a part of. Except Google+.

If you search for Eric Wittlake on Google+, you will find two separate accounts. In addition, I receive Google+ invites for two other Google email addresses that do not have active Google+ accounts.

According to Google, I am four separate accounts! If you choose to circle the wrong account, then we haven’t even connected! (Here is my real Google+ account if you are interested.)

In addition to making it difficult to connect, the lack of identity creates other problems for Google+.

  • It is difficult to share. Since I’m often logged in to other Google accounts, I cannot use +1 buttons to share content on Google+.
  • Notifications are muted. Although the red box is a great notification within the Google ecosystem, if you are logged into other Google accounts, it falls short.

Until Google allows you to create an account for you as an individual, not an email address, this problem will continue to plague Google’s most loyal users and the business users they are looking to attract.

Advantage: Facebook, and every other network except Google+.

Running in Circles

CirclesCircles, in concept, are a great addition. However, the more I attempt to use them, the more I realize just how short they fall.

I want to filter what I see. I want to selectively share my updates. So what happens when I circle you on Google+?

Here are two scenarios:

  • I put you in my B2B marketing circle and you put me in your photography circle. Now my B2B marketing stream is filled with photography posts and your photography stream is getting my marketing posts.
  • I put you in my B2B marketing circle and I begin seeing all of your updates, on any topic, so long as they are public. Although I’m interested in your B2B marketing content, circles didn’t actually help me filter it at all.

We may have had an opportunity to connect but because Google+ has us running in circles, the opportunity was missed.

Small Advantage: Facebook with EdgeRank as an additional filter and lists for manual control.

Your Turn

Overall, I’m a fan of Google+. But until we can have an individual identity on Google+ and circles become useful for filtering information, I don’t see it taking off with a general population. What do you think?

Share your view in the comments or with me on Twitter (@wittlake) or Google+!

Image by blprnt_van on Flickr