Google+ is off to a good start: A clean interface that works, interesting and useful  features, a great Android app, and a curious community of early adopters. The screenshots at the bottom of this post will give you a taste of what Google+ is but they will also likely show you what it is not, at least not yet.

Google needs to go above and beyond itself to make this worth our time and theirs. Right now Google+ (or Google Plus) feels like Google Buzz +1 but also like Facebook -1. It's exciting, but not that exciting.

Below are 10 things that Google can do to change their reputation in the "social" space and become a dominant player instead of an awkward one.

1) Don't Focus on the Technology

Google Wave was the future... and then it died. Google Buzz might as well be. Google must truly learn from those mistakes and focus on use cases that make sense to people outside the Googleplex. Why do people go online (beyond search and YouTube) and why/how/when do people interact with each other?

2) Compete with Facebook

Google needs to stop saying that this is not about Facebook. It is. It's time to compete and compete well. Twitter might not be trying to create a Facebook but its definitely competing by enhancing its own network and doing things that are either very much in line with what Facebook is doing, or completely different. A competition is a competition regardless of whether you can coexist or not.

3) Google Ads

A Google social network without ads? Really? For how long? Google must be brave and put some ads up there. If it doesn't, I simply cannot take this seriously. It's not that I love ads, but without ads Google is pretending to be something it is not.

4) Make Changes and Soon

Google Buzz looks the same today as it did a year ago. That's embarrasing and quite useless in a web that evolves on an on-going basis. There must be a long-term strategy and that must involve changes, updates, and major enhancements and announcements. It also includes making mistakes and doing a thing or two that people don't like. Just do something beyond launching and don't wait too long to do it. If there are no changes in the next month or two, I'm not staying around.

5) Integrate ASAP

 Google called it "Plus" because its supposed to "enhance Google," right? Well, then, I hope the name is not a letdown. I want to see the best analytics on a social network ever and this may already be happening. But I also want to see Google Docs and the best of Wave (RIP) and Buzz and Latitude/Places/Loopt integrated either physically or in spirit with Plus.

6) Show What Android Can Do

The Google+ Android app should make people want to buy an Android phone just to see what an Android app can really do. If Android is the future of how people will be able to interact, use that app to make it evident.

7) More Useful Applications: Threads, Curation, Live Streaming?

Circles, Hangouts, Sparks. We need more of that. Google can give us some of the things Facebook offers (Chat, Groups, Questions) as well as things that Facebook hasn't done (or hasn't done well yet). From threaded messages to collaboration, live streaming, and curation (ie. Storify,, there are many ways to provide solutions to the many issues of today's social media sites.

8) Don't forget about Brands

Brands are now used to having a Facebook Page and a Twitter account. What is Google's alternative? There better be one and it better be worthwhile. People gather around the things they care about and brands/products/services are definitely part of that. There should be a special place for brands in Google+ and it should allow them to add value and engage in a way that makes Facebook and Twitter nervous.

9) Focus on the Masses, not the Early Adopters

The same people on Google+ today were on Google Buzz for 3 weeks. Influencers, bloggers, and reporters do not matter that much in this battle so be careful not to pay too much attention to them. Instead, focus on giving the mainstream audiences something they want to use. This will not be easy because the average Facebook user has little desire to try something like Google+ at this point. If Google can start to get the attention of my wife and my mom, it might just have a chance. Until then, it's only a niche product for early adopters to talk about nothing but Google+ itself.

10) Play Well With Others

While Google definitely does not want to become an aggregator (Google Buzz is now known as dead sea of tweets no one reads), it better be strategic about who it can partner and get creative with. From opening up to third party developers, to partnering with software, hardware, and content providers, Google might not be able to pull this off on its own.


I guess to sum it up: Google needs to discover itself, be itself, and leverage itself. People say "social" is not in their DNA so this might be the last opportunity for Google to find out whether that is true or not.

Differentiation won't be a way to position Google+, it will be the only way for it to survive and thrive. Google can't be Facebook and it can't be Twitter, but there's no need to say "oh, we're just here for a good time." People don't have time for a swell time. People have time for things that make their life better, not just their Google better.

There are many of us who want Google to succeed in this space (even if that's a bit scary in a way) because we know the kind of value that Google has provided with search, email, video, etc.

It's time to wow the average Facebook user while wowing the average Facebook engineer.

It's time for Google to wow itself.

Screenshots of Google+ on Social Nerdia's Flickr

Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.