While it may not be actually selling anything (yet), Google+ has taken a very passive approach to its ecommerce promotions. You’re not going to see a web banner or a roadside billboard anywhere for the web giant’s new social networking efforts. News headlines are everywhere on the Internet, but they’re not being pushed by Google itself. The loudest buzz is about the mostly silent marketing decision. It hasn’t made a declaration about being hip, trendy, or innovative, but by withholding that declaration, the new service is letting other people say those things for it.
When Google launched its e-mailing service, Gmail, the people who joined immediately felt privileged. Membership was invite-only. Hotmail, Yahoo!, and AOL still dominated the field, but their users couldn’t resist the allure and mystique of an exclusive e-mail provider. If they happened to receive an invitation, people signed up. This method of ecommerce promotions, stepping back to let your client base expand itself, worked well for Gmail. It’s now the largest active e-mail provider, with even colleges using the platform for their own school databases and student accounts. For Gmail, it was innovative; to repeat the same scheme may backfire with Google+.
Web analysts have for years criticized Google for avoiding the social networking industry. It made large social media purchases, like Youtube, but ignored the field that Myspace and Facebook seemed to dominate. Forecasts predict that Myspace lingers among the companies that won’t survive another year, and with The Social Network filling theaters and Oscar nominations, Facebook looked to have secured its reign forever. But, perhaps coincidentally, just as the social networking king launched an e-mail service, Google countered by quietly leaking its own, allegedly better social networking site.
Very few sites can function, grow in members, and create a profit by charging for their service. All the revenue comes through advertisements, but these sites still have to sell themselves with effective ecommerce promotions. Once sites get big enough, they can sit back and let word of mouth advertise for them. No one in America has avoided hearing the name “Facebook,” and very few Americans have yet to sign up for an account themselves. To begin with such hands off ecommerce promotions, however, is risky business. Google+ has the benefit of news reports, but mostly it’s relying on users to like the service enough to invite their friends.
Google claims the service is still in a testing period, that membership hasn’t opened to the public because Google+ is only a trial. This ecommerce promotions method will work at capturing intrigue, but it’s not a guaranteed approach to find regular users. Even the “privileged” few who have already been invited don’t fully understand the site. It’s clean and lets you categorize friendships, acquaintances, and family without their knowledge, but how it’s better (or even as good as) Facebook is yet to be seen. Twitter gained a lot of interest and media publicity, but it hardly became the revolutionary service some people expected. Facebook has gained prominence because it remains fluid and adaptive—the stasis of Myspace was its downfall. For as big as Google already is, using word of mouth ecommerce promotions will certainly draw in users to its social networking endeavor. If it still wants to sell itself in six months, though, it’ll have to remain innovative and alluring, not just exclusive.