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Why Google Me would start off at a disadvantage

SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social-media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Are you interested in the rumored “Google Me” service from Google?

  • Yes — 50.78%
  • No — 49.22%

This might be the closest we’ve ever come to having a tie in one of our polls. It’s tempting to think of these results as a wash, but I think getting such a bare majority of 198 SmartBrief on Social Media readers on board is actually a bad sign for Google.

Social networks need a ton of buy-in to flourish. If Google really is working on a fully featured social network, then it faces stiff competition from a growing number of networks. While there’s no absolute cap on the number of networks the market will support, most people can only pay meaningful attention to a small number of social sites –we’ve only got so many hours in a day, after all. In practice, that means new networks must do more than pique a user’s interest — the case must be made that this new network is more valuable to the user than one of their old favorites. MySpace must die so that Facebook might live, etc.

Part of the problem is that users are diversifying into more specialized networks, such as location-aware services. And part of the problem is that Google is going to have to live down its own checkered past in the social space — remember how badly it flubbed the launch of Google Buzz?

Think of it this way: How many people do you know who signed up for Google Buzz accounts? Now, how many people do you know who really use Google Buzz on a daily basis? The difference between those two numbers is the mountain Google has to climb before it can challenge Facebook. To overcome those problems, Google will need to do a great job of getting people excited about its latest offering. The numbers could change substantially when (and if) Google makes a formal announcement, but right now, I don’t think a hair over 50% cuts it.