Google has a long line of social network failures, a story that started before Facebook was born. Orkut, the first Google Social Network was founded a month before the Facebook launch in 2004. Someone have seen in it a war between search engines and social networks, but this is just a myth. They are things that for now will remain both useful and needed.

90% of people have probably never heard of the Google social failures, Google Buzz, Wave, Jaiku, Dodgeball, Aardvark and a couple that were more popular like Picasa or Orkut.

Orkut was the only successful social network that Google really had as it was the leading social in Brazil and India for many years. In September 2014 Orkut was closed, even though it still had a lot of users and engagement, because Mountain View wanted to get people to use G+ in Brazil too.

Now! How about Google+?

There’s a lot of buzz online about Google+ but what was Google’s original intention?

That, more or less, was “to become the biggest Facebook competitor and eventually win the competition“. That’s been a complete and total disaster. Google+ is the perfect example that to demonstrate a very important lesson.  No matter how much money, how many geniuses at work and how many products you have that people use, you can’t force them to use something you have created.

In 2005 Google+ has more profiles than Facebook, something like 2.2 billions, but out of this huge number only 300 million can be considered active users on a monthly basis. In the same time frame, Facebook has 1.49 billion of monthly active users. Google forced people into creating useless G+ profiles as they made it necessary in order to use all other Google products. This is why we said that Orkut was the only real social success for Google, because it got active users and engagement in a natural way, whilst G+ has reached an unimpressive number profiles!

G+ had some good moments with Youtube comments and autoshare, with Hangouts (the most loved G+ feature) and with Authorship that made bloggers, marketers and influencers increase their presence and their efforts on the Mountain View social platform. Unfortunately only Hangout now remains, since Authorship was killed and Youtube is again “standing alone”. Doing that was a good idea because other video platforms are growing and a lot of users/G+ haters could abandon Youtube if they felt compelled to use G+. With a lot of profiles and engagement coming from Youtube we can imagine that G+ will soon become an even more lonely place.

Google doesn’t seem to be learning from its mistakes. They still want to be “the number one social network”. They are number one in the internet, but the real number one in social is Facebook, beating them in this area without too much effort.  Google+ started with “we are so cool you need an invitation to join” then to “you have to join or you will be unable to use Youtube and other funny stuff” and it will probably end “please use me“.

So these are the lessons we can learn from Google’s social network failures

  • You can’t “make” people use your social channels, they have to choose you.
  • The important thing is not just “find the competitor and make everything better with more features” you have to find an identity.
  • Without an identity, you are struggling to get an unidentified audience that’s still almost fully engaged somewhere else, so no matter how cool you are, they have already a cool place to go. A niche would be better.
  • A lot of features without an easy and fast user experience are useless. G+ is not the easiest social platform…
  • Maybe you already have something with a big social potential but you can’t see it. For Google the great opportunity was Youtube. It could have become a real separate video-based social network, instead of “a part of Google+” as they tried to do. That was the mistake.
  • Every time you compare your new social network project with Facebook you are doomed.