Google+ : Bad Toga Party or Ford Pinto?

Google+ : Bad Toga Party or Ford Pinto?
Dud or party wagon? Google+ is like the Ford Pinto.

In the early 1970s, the Ford Motor Company marketed one of the biggest duds of all time, the Ford Pinto. Not only was the car ugly, coming in colors like dirt brown and lemon peel yellow, it had one ill-conceived safety flaw. That little flaw was that the engine and fuel tank filler were located in the back, making a rear-end fender-bender a potential calamity.

A slightly better car, the Chevy Nova, had a longer stretch that ended with a fumble. The Nova --which I am told was a cult hit in Iran until 1979 when America’s buddy, The Shah, was run out by radicals—was marketed with zero success in Latin America after a nice run of four generations in the US. The Nova’s South American flop might have been its name. You see “No va” in Spanish means (literally) “It doesn’t go.”

Generation Y and people younger than this old bum can remember failed products in their own lifetime. In automotives, there was the Yugo, whose size and clumsiness made it a farce for an America growing at the waistline. There was also The New Coke, Coca-Cola’s bad tasting joke. There was also that one time that Sears shut its doors for a week. The endgame was to revamp lower prices on everything from chainsaws to corduroys. Too bad that when Sears reopened their doors, their prices were still higher than everyone else’s prices.

Deep into the digital age, we’ve gotten to see one of the internet’s biggest clunkers: Google+.

Sure, Google+ is different from a lot of product fumbles in that it is a product that we don’t pay for. So it’s probably harsh to think that Google+ will go down with a hard multi-million dollar thump like WebVan or Pets.com. But it shares some usability problems with a site like Kozmo.com, in that Google+ ignores human behavior and our need for convenience and ease of use.

Techies and noobs alike use social media sites and apps for their strengths and don’t bother fiddling with their weaknesses. I got onto Google+ probably for the same reasons I got onto Facebook, the main one being that everyone else was doing it. Add to that the mystique of the fact that you needed to be “invited” too, and you had a nice buildup ready to attract users worldwide at the same pace.

But after a few months a trying to make use of Google+, I sort of gave up.

Google+ just doesn’t make using social media fun and easy. And I’m not buying all the hoopla from bloggers who say Google+ is a must-have for aspiring writers or wired small businesses.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled with Facebook’s ease of use. Then again, Google+ was billed as Google’s version of Facebook. Given Google’s track record for great technology –Gmail is simple yet perfect example— I figured that Google+, even if functionally different, had to be good.

But Google+ never seemed to get it right. By getting it right, a social media product should promote communication between people in the easiest possible fashion. Sure, I never hired a consultant to show me how Google+ works best. But I shouldn’t have to.

With Google+, users are all left standing around wondering what’s with these “circles” of people that we are supposed to be connecting with. For one, I can’t really jump into conversations of friends I already have, the way that I can with Facebook.

On Facebook, if a friend posts his or her pics from the Styx concert, I can comment on how much I loathe Styx and think that they should be destroyed. Seeing my righteous comments, an old high school buddy, for example, who recognizes my name and sarcasm, can friend me. From then on, we can easily rekindle our long lost relationship just from a point-and-click, and the fact that we hate the same music.

But with Google+, it’s almost like you're supposed to stay in your circle and not move. Just like the bad guys in the original Superman movie.


Yeah, Google+ is like that, sorta.

Everyone on Twitter knows that if you can't say something in 140 characters, then perhaps it’s something better left unsaid. And for those of us who just like to look at the pictures, there is Pinterest.

On LinkedIn we tend to be polite and businesslike. Facebook, as we all know is like a constant 24 social hour and one that lets you be just who you are. Maybe you just like stand next to the life of the party and laugh at their jokes dropping comments like “lol”.

Or maybe you are the instigator. Want to rag your friend for the time he got drunk enough to end the night with marker on his face? Just post that pic and tag him.

Comparably, Google+ is like a really bad toga party; one you wish you were never invited to.

The party was built up to be a wild throw down, hosted by a party promoter with an impeccable name. Everyone would be there. But the host never really showed up. And left you eating bad hors d'oeuvres, holding a watered down drink, with no excitement anywhere.

When I realize I am at a lame party I do what any sensible person would do. I get into my lemon yellow Ford Pinto and go the hell home.


Andy Frye writes about sports and life and tweets throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex. You won't  find him on Google+.

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  • "In the early 1970s, the Ford Motor Company marketed one of the biggest duds of all time, the Ford Pinto."

    No, the biggest dud of all time from Ford was the Edsel.

    I also remember the song "Yugo Yugo, and Hyundai, too." Communist junk is communist junk, but Hyundai is now one of the most successful carmakers.

    As far as web stuff, I have a college marketing book from about 11 years ago, on "the power of e." About half the companies were out of business by the time I took the class. Even some that are left aren't successful, for instance the book had a case study on how the Toronto Blue Jays were geniuses at database mining, but no one now goes to their games.

    In any event, the only way Google and Facebook make money is that someone is willing to click on the ads. Apparently a whole mess of people are.

  • Both the Edsel and the Yugo were more aesthetically pleasing than G+.

  • But wait. Imagine you were at the Toga party, and every time you said something the hottest girl in the place would wander right up to you (even if she had been three rooms away) and say "that thing you just said...it is just what I needed to hear. Now let's go". Every time you went to the party...every time you said something...the same thing happened. Bet you would never leave the party, right?

    See, where Google+ is making its bones is by bringing your social life into internet search. If you post that this Beatles cover band you are seeing in Chicago is cool, then when I do a Google search for the same band here in Philly...bam - right at the top of my results is my G+ contact Andy talking about how cool they really are, even if I never saw your original post about being at the show.

    Since way more research that we want to talk about here has convinced us we like what our friends say over what our bosses or corporate America has to say, we are more inclined to go for the thing you say is cool. That is where Google+ wants you to be. They want you to quit playing with your farm animals and start saying things that influence the girl in the other room.

  • In reply to Beads:

    Yeah, but you and I both know the most easy, nasty social media users that you describe can still be found in the dark caverns of MySpace.

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