An interesting analogy by Alexis Madrigal:
But by most accounts and third-party research, the service is growing its number of users but not their engagement. People are “on” Google Plus, but they are not really ON Google Plus. The infrastructure is there. The street signs are there. People own plots of land. But there’s nobody actually visiting town. To make it obvious: Google Plus is the California City to Facebook’s Los Angeles.
This is an elaborate way to argue what I have before: Google+, while a pretty good product, isn’t taking off because it’s unnatural. It was set up to succeed except for one problem: it was set up.
Madrigal also has a compelling way to get Google’s social efforts back on track: scrap Google+ and focus on how people are actually using Google products. As he writes:
I think Google needs to stop looking across town at Facebook and look within itself. Google is riddled with invisible social networks surrounding a wide range of products. Even better, Google’s homegrown social networks tend to be built around Google’s core strength: organized (and organizing) information.
In other words, stop trying to build a weird Facebook/Twitter hybrid on top of Google products and instead focus on the individual (and natural) social elements of the already-in-use products.
Obviously, that’s much more easily said than done. And it doesn’t really get at what this is all really about: unified, cross-pollinated data. But it would be much more natural.