Will Social Media Fatigue Kill Google+?

Now a little over a month since the launch of Google and the most buzzed about online service already has 25 million users, estimates ComScore. These stats mean Google is growing faster than Facebook and MySpace did in the early days. Further, according to a from Bloomberg/YouGov, Google is on track to claim 22 percent of online U.S. adults in a year, which would place it second behind Facebook as the most-used social site – ahead of Twitter and LinkedIn.  Says the survey, Google has already snagged 13 percent of U.S. adults and will add 9 percent over the next year.

It’s no wonder why marketers are so excited about Google , despite the fact that it’s not technically open to brands. Ford is among the shortlist of brands to test the platform, and understandably its audience is relatively small. At the time of this blog, 12,154 people had added Ford to their circles. This compares with 781,899 people following the brand on Facebook and 75,327 on Twitter.

As a marketer, I am personally a little nonplussed by all the hype around Google . As a shareholder on the other hand, I love it.

I admit Google has some shiny new features that certainly hold promise for marketers once consumers sign onto the service en masse and actually stay on it. For example, Ford’s head of social media Scott Monty says the chat capability has potential for webinars, analyst calls, and even customer service uses for people to have a face-to-face experience with the brand. But it’s not clear whether Google brand profiles will support the same functionality for individual users. Just think about how powerful features like Circles could be in supporting audience segmentation and message customization. And potential integration with Google Analytics could give brands just the social ROI metrics they have been waiting for.

Like the Bloomberg/YouGov survey, I predict that adoption of Google will continue to grow if only because it has the advantage of being pretty seamlessly integrated into the overall Google ecosystem (search page, Google Docs, Chrome, etc.). This integration should conceivably increase the likelihood that Google search users will check in regularly on Google . But what will it take for the masses to stay there?  Apparently 31 percent of users polled in the Bloomberg/YouGov survey said they have already abandoned their accounts or not written any posts yet on the site.

As a PR practitioner who spends a large part of the day searching for and reading news from my personalized iGoogle news page,  I check in more frequently on Google because the icon is an eye’s distance away, but still spend considerably more time on Facebook and Twitter. This is because the content and interactions I have on those sites are more valuable to me. Although truth be told, I use both Facebook and Twitter increasingly less and less. This brings me to the premise of this post.

Drumroll please.

Above all else, when developing their social media strategies, marketers must remember that the quality of the content will always trump the quality of the platform. This holds particularly true in an era of social media fatigue when consumers are growing tired of how brands are communicating to them via social channels. As Tom Fishburne poignantly said in his recent blog about social fatigue, “It’s not enough for communication to be good for the brand. It has to be good for the consumer.”

So, will social media fatigue kill Google ? Given its steady rise, innovative features, and strong base of early adopters who are charting purposeful best practices, the answer is probably not. However, a good platform with a strong following does not a successful social media program make. At Bateman Group we are admittedly still wrapping our heads around Google and formulating our ideas on where, if at all right now it should be used with clients. Given the service is still very much in early adoption mode, it’s currently better suited for most of our clients to communicate with and engage their respective industry influencers versus their direct buyers. Hangout, for example, offers a new twist on how we can engage with influencers but only time will tell if the feature poses too big of a cultural shift to become a mainstream anytime soon.

We’d love to hear from other PR and marketing professionals about how they have begun to incorporate Google into their mix of social media tools.

Follow Bill Bourdon on Twitter @bbourdon.