Beyond Early Adopters, Can Google Sustain Growth by annyhaiyan


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                             Beyond Early Adopters, Can Google+ Sustain Growth ?

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       Dated: Jul 15, 2011

       Early reviews were positive but reserved, thanks to Google’s failure with Google Buzz. Like clockwork
       though, technology celebrities like Robert Scoble and Kevin Rose starting flooding Google’s social network
       and singing its praises.

       Give credit to Google: Its strategic and orchestrated launch of Google+ has been nearly flawless.

        Early reviews were positive but reserved, thanks to Google’s failure with Google Buzz. Like clockwork
       though, technology celebrities like Robert Scoble and Kevin Rose starting flooding Google’s social
       network and singing its praises. Taking a cue from Gmail, Google released invites in small bursts, sparking
       a clamor for invites across the web.

        The result of Google’s carefully planned campaign is an estimated user base of 10 million in just two
       weeks. More importantly, engagement on Google+ is extremely high, with many reporting they get more
       responses on Google+ than they do on Twitter or Facebook. It’s clear that Google+ has momentum.

        That’s nice, but the momentum is starting to blind Google+ users and the press to reality. Here’s the truth:
       Google+ is dominated almost entirely by early adopters. And early adopters, while important, are not great
       predictors of the success of a social network.

        Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit some social media services that have been embraced by
       early adopters. What has happened to them and what it might mean for the future of Google+?

        The Technology Adoption Life cycle

        Many of you have probably heard of the technology adoption lifecycle and Rogers’ bell curve. It is a
       sociological model developed in the 1950s to predict the normal distribution of technology adoption.
       Innovators and early adopters make up the first 16% of any given population that accepts a new technology.
       They are more risk-oriented, tend to be community leaders and aren’t afraid to try new things. However,
       that still leaves 84% of the population to adopt a new technology.

        Let’s put these percentages in the context of Facebook and Google+. Zuckerberg said last week that he
       believes Facebook has hit critical mass. He also announced that Facebook has 750 million users. For the
       sake of argument, let’s assume that’s the potential market for the adoption of a social media service. If we
       do the math, that means that the first 120 million users are early adopters for social networking. That’s a
       long way from the current 10 million.

        Whether you agree with my math or not, it’s clear that Google+ is dominated by an early-adopter crowd.
       Only early-adopter crowds could make Robert Scoble, Leo Laporte and Kevin Rose among the top ten most
       popular users on Google+. I even have a term for this phenomenon: The Robert Scoble Effect.

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        A History of Early Adoption

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 There’s nothing wrong with early adopters — you need them to test and evangelize your products. Every
product starts with early adopters, though some start with a different crowd than others (remember,
Facebook started out as a social network for college students).

 However, early adopters shouldn’t be used as an indication that a technology product is destined for
success. Let’s look at what has happened to a couple of technology products that either are or were once hot
with the early adopter community:

 FriendFeed: In 2008 and 2009, FriendFeed was all the rage. Its real-time stream and long comment threads
were the precursors to the technology now standard on Facebook and Google+. The tech press wrote about
it constantly, predicting that it would beat out the competition.

 FriendFeed gained a cult-like following, but it never broke out into the mainstream. In 2009, Facebook
acquired FriendFeed for $50 million. It was a nice exit, but with companies like Groupon and Zynga filing
for IPOs that could be worth more than $20 billion, FriendFeed never turned early adopters into a
mainstream audience.

 Quora: At the end of last year, nobody could shut up about Quora, the social Q&A startup co-founded by
former Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo. It was in the middle of a perfect storm.

 Since then, discussion of Quora has dropped off tremendously, and so has usage of the Q&A site. Follower
growth has stalled since May. It also suffers from the Robert Scoble Effect, as the technology enthusiast is
still Quora’s most followed user.

 Let’s be clear: it’s still too early to make a final judgment on Quora, but the Q&A site is a good example of
the fickleness of early adopters.

Twitter: On the other hand, Twitter is a good example of how an early adopter product can go mainstream.
Twitter was dominated by early adopters for the longest time. It wasn’t until Ashton Kutcher, Oprah and
Shaq joined that the social media service’s growth shot to the moon.

Now Twitter users generate more than 200 million tweets per day, and its most popular users aren’t Robert
Scoble or Kevin Rose: it’s Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Barack Obama.

Buzz: Let’s not forget that Google launched a social product last year, one that received a ton of accolades.
We all know how that turned out.

Google+ Hasn’t Truly Been Tested

 Let’s be clear: We’re not trying to predict the future of Google+ after just two weeks of use. Overall, we
like Google+ and think it brings some new ideas to the table. In fact, we’ve been surprised by the
engagement we’ve received on Google+ thus far.

 Still, all of this can be attributed to the early adopter effect. Is your mom using Google+? Is your sister
using Google+? Have your friends in finance or medicine joined the Google+ revolution yet? We bet the
answer is a resounding “no” in the vast majority of cases. At least your grandma has heard of Facebook.

 So while Google+ may be riding a tidal wave of momentum at the moment, it’s still a toy of the early
adopter. And until it can prove that it has a place in a world dominated by more mainstream networks, we
suggest not abandoning your Facebook profile just yet.

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Tags               early adopters, google, sustain, growth
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