We Tried to Resolve the Google+ Issue on Google Wave but ...

Why Dumenco and All Those Early Adopters Can Go Jump in a Circle

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Ken Wheaton
Ken Wheaton

Say Google+ one more time. I dare you. I double dare you.

In the past three weeks I've heard a lot about Google+, read a lot about Google+, was pitched too often about Google+.

What I haven't spent a lot of time doing is actually using Google+. I'll admit it, the minute the first rounds of invites landed at Ad Age HQ, I raised my hand. I wanted to see this thing and pronounce it DOA. I'd called time of death for Google Wave when the social-media set was still insisting it was the next big thing. I wanted a repeat. Not because I hate Google, but because I hate bandwagons.

So far, I've been wrong -- or wrongish. Instead of people pointing and laughing, millions are rushing to sign up. Even I was won over by my initial look at Google Circles -- mostly because the circle reminded me of a rotary dial phone.

But I'm not willing to admit defeat just yet. Simon Dumenco, a host of early adopters and every person ever slighted somehow by Mark Zuckerburg may be Huddling together in glee, but here are five reasons to keep calm and carry on.

If we're thinking in terms of Facebook vs. Google+ (and who isn't?), consider the amount of effort it would take a person to switch over. And when I say person, I mean an actual, breathing consumer -- not the "person" who has 16 social-media apps and thought Quora would sweep the nation. Facebook is easy to use and doesn't require much of me. Google+ asks me to manage things. Sure, people complain about Facebook, but how many people dropped the service last time there was one of those privacy outrages? Ten? Fifteen? You might grouse about your bank (or Netflix, for that matter), but you have all your money there, and your direct deposit and all your bills are paid automatically. To move it all? Meh.

Maybe Google+ can offer something Facebook doesn't. Heck, 10 million people have already signed up. That's a sign of success, right? But I'd bet 99.9% of those are media, tech and social-media junkies. The other 0.1% are those related to them. They got an invite to see what all the fuss is about and then wandered off. Dear Aunt Tilly isn't on Google+. She's too busy playing "Farmville." Sure, she signed up for Twitter, but she never used it. There was so much going on! Google+ confuses her. Is it Google Plus or Google Plus Sign? And what if her sister found out she'd put her in the family circle only, but not in the friends circle? Which brings me to another point.

I'm paranoid about technology -- and not just because I came thisclose to retweeting one of Charlie Sheen's porn-star girlfriends from the Ad Age account. I watch what I say on Facebook because I know everyone can see it. How soon before someone drops a porn link into the wrong circle? What about the spam I'm already getting because the default on Google+ is to email people who aren't on Google+ when you post a link (really, Google? REALLY!?)? And what happens if something goes screwy on Google's end and your friends and family (assuming they ever sign up) can see what circles you've put them in -- or haven't put them in?

If you're reading this, you're in advertising or marketing or PR. Some of you are seeing dollar signs as you persuade marketers they have to be in on this thing and you're just the person to teach them (though you have no more experience with it than anyone else). But the rest of you are maybe groaning, "Oh, here we go again. Do I have to? Really?" Honestly, I have no idea. Doesn't hurt to experiment. I'm not sure how brands will fit into this. This may make it easier for consumers to block you from their social streams -- or stick you in a circle labeled "Annoying people selling me crap." And though Aunt Tilly never grasped the concept of an RSS feed, what if she realizes Sparks allows her to keep an easy eye on, say, every company that still does business with Michael Vick?


Ken Wheaton is the managing editor of Ad Age .
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