The other day, the graph below starting making the rounds through my TweetDeck silos.
It’s pretty impressive, right?
But it didn’t take long for many web critics and pundits to jump all over Google+’s impressive ascension. And in fact, comparisons to Facebook, in particular, aren’t fair. Facebook has defined social networking, and it takes time to carve out the cultural/techno phenomenon that this activity has become.
So maybe Google had it easy. Millions and millions of users to begin with while Facebook did the heavy lifting.
But that simple explanation overlooks the power of a mega brand and the value of taking risks. Since Facebook has become the 8 million pound gorilla in the social media room, hundreds of other “networks” have popped up. And while some have had an impressive degree of success (Twitter, Foursquare, etc.), many you’ve never heard of.
That’s why Google’s accomplishment shouldn’t be overlooked. Its past forays into social media haven’t been successful (Buzz, Wave). So the initial success and strong start for Google+ is noteworthy, driven by fun, compelling, and simple features like Circles and Hangouts, which Lori Lewis has pointed out in this blog and on “Merge.”
Success in this space isn’t just due to Google’s heft. But it sure didn’t hurt.
And that speaks to the power of big brands and vast communities. It’s one of the reasons why iHeartRadio is in position to become more valuable and functional. It has spent the last few years adding millions of people and cool features, putting it in a position of being a popular, go-to mobile application. That gives Clear Channel the chance to do big things with Thumbplay, because they have a huge population and a degree of consumer trust in their brand.
Pandora has moved into that stratosphere as well. Earlier in the month, they announced passing the 100 million mark in listening audience – a large footprint that enables this brand to branch out into comedy and try other experiments and projects. When you’re that big with a mass audience, there’s ample opportunity to grow your brand via extensions.
So what about the small company – the one that isn’t Pandora, Amazon, or Google+ but has to compete in the same space? Well, that describes most of us.
The “long tail” quality that the Internet has defined makes it possible for independent artists and small companies to grow and prosper – but if and only if they innovate and take risks. The opportunity is there, enabled by the real-time web. Where else can you tweet back and forth with world famous celebrities, innovators, and movers and shakers? How else can you share ideas with thought leaders like Guy Kawasaki, Jeff Pulver, and Tomi Ahonen as easily as you share photos with your sister or your best friend from college who moved to Iowa?
But the ideas have to be there. And that’s the challenge we all face, whether we’re at the helm of the biggest company or in the process of trying to get a start-up off the ground.
This is the time to push ourselves, take the plunge, give it a shot, and if necessary, deal with a misfire and move on to something else. Even companies with small footprints can do amazing things. In fact, many would argue that smaller, more agile businesses have a bit of an edge in this fluid environment.
But the one thing that defines failure whether you're part of a big brand or an up-and-comer is doing nothing and standing pat.
It’s almost guaranteed.