3 Steps Google Plus Must Take to Win Against Facebook

Congratulations to the Google Plus team for shipping a superb beta under conditions which could be considered equal parts turmoil and FUD. I absolutely love it. If it had 750 million users on it right now it would be a superior experience to Facebook.

For starters, it looks more cohesive. This isn’t surprising because it is a blank slate product that did not have to deal with the technical debt Facebook has accumulated since 2004. Beyond the interface however, Google Plus will be more engaging emotionally for people because it allows them to be more authentic with one another.

Why? Because Google Plus establishes intuitive clarity for my social graph.

Guest author Zubin Wadia, @zubinwadia, is co-founder of SecretSocial, which allows you to engage people privately on the social Web. He is a graduate of Singularity University and is passionate about distributed systems, augmented digital experiences and public safety.

It allows me to explore the full spectrum of emotions within an engagement because I know exactly who I am sharing it with, and in what context (conversational or informational). It fosters deeper, more significant bonds irrespective of distance.

Google Plus enables connections to become experiences between people. Well done Google, you now have a weapon that can be strategically propagated amongst the 1 billion unique users who visit your properties every month.

Pundits all over speculate that Google Plus is too little, too late, that Facebook owns the social graph and with it, the future of the Web. I disagree. Superior experiences coupled with network effects, prevail over time. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg circa 2007.

Is Google Plus special enough to warrant that consumer shift? Not yet. Google has shown courage under fire here; and as the stellar article in Wired showed – it is willing to be patient. But for it to prevail against Facebook, it is going to have to be daring. Qui audet adipiscitur.

Here’s three ways it can dare to win.

Go Beyond The Walled Garden Experience

I don’t want my social engagement to be constrained to my “circles” or “friends”. I want spontaneity too, allowing me to engage in serendipitous conversations with others based on a specific interest or motive. I don’t always know someone’s email, but I can discover their Twitter handle. So why can’t I invite them to a Google Plus Huddle or Hang Out via my own Twitter account? I may put them in a circle once I know them better or I might not. Either way, I want the ability to engage new and interesting people from Google Plus!

Let Me To Have Ephemeral Interactions With People

As Google’s social lead Vic Gundotra astutely noted, human relationships are nuanced and transient. By extension, so this the information we share with others. So why don’t I have the ability to engage someone off-the-record, with assurance that data from this temporary interaction isn’t saved on Google’s servers nor is it retained within my browser cache? People have real-world interactions of that kind all the time!

Why don’t I have the ability to engage someone off-the-record, with assurance that data from this temporary interaction isn’t saved on Google’s servers nor is it retained within my browser cache?

I see you at a conference, we discuss, we disperse. All we are left with is a memory of the experience. I am not saying every interaction should be temporary – just ones where we desire that extra level of discretion. People will appreciate that degree of empowerment. Most importantly though, it is one more signal for Google Plus’ algorithms to gauge strength between relationships.

Use AI To Augment Me, But Don’t BE Me

In the Wired article, Gundotra says, “We think long-term, four to five years from now, the system should be putting items in there not just from your friends, but things that Google knows you should be seeing.”

That statement is disturbing on two levels. Firstly, it is general consensus that Google has the most formidable artificial intelligence talent on the planet (Exhibit A) honing their skills on one of the richest data sets imaginable. It is their one asymmetric advantage against Facebook – so why would you wait four years to leverage it? They already leverage predictive analytics brilliantly inside Gmail with the “consider including” feature and in Reader with their “sort by Magic” feature.

The only conclusion I can make is that they are still hurting from the Buzz debacle and are trigger shy. Second, I don’t want Google “putting” items into my feed. Show me a bunch of super-intelligent recommendations that I might consume, that I might share, that I might engage with and you have made my day more interesting. There is a narrow line between between helping me and being me. Don’t blur it.

Google you have the talent, courage and patience to take the fight to Facebook; Google Plus is ample evidence of this. But will you dare to win?

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