Is Google +1 Yet Another Social Media Dud?

At the beginning of this month, Google proudly released its +1 Button to the world, immediately live across several leading websites. The +1 Button is, according to Google, our way of saying "this is pretty cool" or "you should check this out". So in our web and search life, we would see what our friends think of as cool. A social recommender built-into web and search, sort of a cross between Facebook Like (which only shows up in Facebook) and Social Bookmarkers such as Digg, Delicious etc (which only shows up in their respective systems). Google’s +1 would be deeper integrated in web and search, making it more universal. Sounds good to me. News of the +1 Button was excitedly reported by the media as Google’s answer to Facebook’s Like Button and right on the heels of Twitter’s launch of Follow Button a few days before.

Problem is the good news stopped there.

Eagerly looking out for the +1 Button in the following days, I did see them popping up in my online life, as more and more sites took up the +1 Button. But is it me, my browser, my computer, or my internet? The +1 Button seems like the "slow" kid in class, always showing up a step behind everyone else, everywhere, everytime. I hopped onto other computers, used every major browser, got a friend to check it. The unanimous conclusion is : +1 is behind, appearing significantly only after every other button has shown up, even as much as 2 seconds behind in some cases. 2 seconds may not be a lot in our lifetime, but that is a godzillion years in web page loading times. It also means in that split second that it is not there, I could have already scrolled away or clicked on the other buttons. That’s not pretty cool for +1.

Middle of the month came, I have earlier put a note in my agenda to do a mid-month follow-up on how this +1 Button is doing. Ain’t looking good. Sure, there are more sites with the button right next to the Like Button and Tweet Button. But that just made it look even more sad. Here’s a snapshot of 4 sites appealing to very different readers, BSN*, Reuters, CNet, Huffingtonpost.

Google's +1 Button check-in on four completely different site
Google’s +1 Button check-in on four completely different site

The snapshots are made on 18 June, each story is from the site’s "most popular stories" list and published in the few days before, making sure there’s time for it to collect some Like’s, Tweet’s and +1’s.

  • BSN*’s Life After Facebook and Twitter: +1 (4), Like (20), Tweet (66)
  • Reuter’s International Monetary Fund cut its forecast… : +1 (1), Like* (6224), Tweet (279)
  • Cnet’s RIM misses on revenue : +1 (4), Like* (362), Tweet (140)
  • Huffingtonpost’s Facebook users drop in US : +1 (19), Like (1641), Tweet (244)

Certainly +1 Button is not getting that explosive start that was hoped for. And in social media, word of mouth where recommendation is everything, the non-momentum at the start could make it even harder to generate further momentum.

Looking on the bright side, at least the +1 Button is there where many other buttons have tried and been given no space nor chance. The fact that Like and Tweet have been around much longer, it is only natural that they have already cultivated their follower habits. +1 Button is new and has not had the chance yet.

From the pessimistic view, did you notice that at Huffingtonpost, the +1 Button (4) did even worse than Email (120), that "old non-social media". Even LinkedIn Button (they have a button?) did better too, at Reuters. +1 is not just behind, it is way way behind. How long will +1 take to catch up if all it does everyday is slowly adding up in single digits? Meanwhile the rivals are leaping ahead in tens, hundreds and thousands. Perhaps Google would have caught up faster if +1 was named +Godzillion.

Switching to a personal view as a user, I am still waiting to see in my search results that first link with a +1 from a friend. Afterall, that is the one up that +1 has on the Like and Tweet. But without the critical user mass, it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

So what have we got?

  1. +1 being the slow kid
  2. +1 being way behind, adding up only in single digits
  3. No +1 from my friends in my search results.

All that is going for +1 now is "it ain’t happening yet does not mean it will not happen". Play the "only time will tell" card. But if history is any indication of the future…

After having waved goodbye to Wave, seeing Buzz quietly buzzing off, and Orkut uhm o don’t even mention it, Google truly needed a social hit. Now that +1’s start is not quite adding up, we are left to wonder can Google pull off social media. We know they really really want to. O they’ve tried, o how hard they’ve tried. But the odd thing with social systems is that trying too hard is not quite cool. And if you are not quite cool, you can’t tell people "this is pretty cool".

Of course it is way too early to write off +1 Button. But given the string of failed attempts at joining the hip gang in social media, can Google still brush off its losing streak and emerge at the prom where it matters as the prom king?

We’ll be watching, but not holding our breath. Let’s watch this together, share your +1 experiences.