Google+ Needs a Better Story

Have you heard about Google Plus, Google’s social networking platform to challenge Facebook and Twitter? Are you excited? Or, like most on the internet, are you simply confused?

The problem is Google’s story. Let me explain and then give some advice. Their story is:

Connecting with others is a basic human need. But sharing on the internet is broken because the software is so rigid. We want to bring the richness of human interaction to software.

Are you excited yet? Me either.

Let’s break down their story:

1. Who is the hero? The customer, or more generically, “people”.
2. What do they want? To connect on a human level – smile, laugh, whisper.
3. Why? It’s a basic human need.
4. What’s the conflict? The software is too rigid to capture the subtleties and nuances.
5. Therefore? Google Plus is a social platform to capture those subtleties.

First, I don’t recognize myself in this story. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter and think “Man! I’m not really capturing the subtleties of human interaction here. The software is too rigid.” This is some nostalgia cooked up in the basement cauldrons of Google’s marketing department.

Second, we know why Google is launching Google Plus. They’re afraid of Facebook and Twitter. To stay in the game, they’re launching their own social platform. Since their proposed story doesn’t fly with me, I find myself defaulting to this one.

Google needs a better story, and not just a more creative one, but one that customers will believe. Here’s my advice.

1. Admit the truth. You can’t ignore the truth that you’re playing catch-up. So just admit it but make it a support part of your story, not the entire story. And make it a strength. I’ll cover this more in points #3 and #4.

2. Give me a hero I can relate to. It’s true the nuances of human interaction are missing from social media, but that’s not how I talk. I don’t think anyone does. Rather, I think how different it is to meet someone face-to-face and how important things like eye contact, body language and even touch are. Don’t make me decipher “nuances of human interaction” into human language.

3. What is the inciting incident? The inciting incident answers the question “why is this important?” In my book Speaking PowerPoint I discuss 12 ways to introduce the central conflict. In this case I’d use “Pay Your Dues” where you admit an error has been made and you need to fix it: “Others have built places online to share information about themselves and  links they’ve found on the internet. And that’s how we started. But we now realize that was a mistake. Instead, we have to start from what it’s like to be face to face with your family around the kitchen table, or walking through the park with friends, or gathered around the coffee machine with co-workers. And ask, how can we make that kind of relationship possible online?” That’s why Google is late and playing catch-up.

4. What’s the conflict? Not “the software is too rigid”. That’s engineering speak. Instead, the conflict is something like: “We’ve always started by thinking like engineers, in terms of websites and blogs and RSS feeds. But that kind of thinking will never replicate the relationships you can find offline. How do you share smiles? How do you share jokes in real time? How do you flirt? How do you touch? These are the real barriers we need to break down.”

5. Change the name. Google Plus? What the hell does that mean to me, the customer? It sounds like an internal branding thing. Instead, the name should reflect the story you’re trying to tell. In this case, maybe it’s “Google Touch” to indicate breaking down that digital wall that separates us online.

Google’s new story would go like this.

Introducing Google Touch, a completely different way of thinking about meeting friends online. Instead of building an online community, we are taking the experiences you’re used to — catching up over coffee, watching TV together, flirting at parties or sharing your deepest secrets with the ones you’re closest to — and bringing that online. We want connecting online to feel more like connecting in person.

Now are you excited? Me too.

The product actually has some useful features you can’t find in Facebook, like creating different groups of friends so you don’t share your hangover pictures with your work colleagues. And interesting Twitter-like content feeds based on your interests.

What will differentiate it will not be the product because Facebook and Twitter could copy those features. What will differentiate it will be the story behind the features.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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