Google has never fared particularly well in social.
This was highlighted earlier in the week when the search giant announced a new update for Google+ – which reminded many that Google+ actually does still exist. Yet, despite their various attempts and failures in trying to tap into the social realm, that hasn’t stopped them from trying. I mean, really, they can’t – social platforms are continually cutting into their core business, with more and more discovery activity being conducted with social apps, a trend that only looks set to grow.
That same impetus appears to be behind their latest shot at social functionality, with Google-owned YouTube testing a new in-app messaging platform which enables users to share their thoughts and comments about YouTube content on YouTube – not somewhere else.
It’s pretty straight-forward – you watch a cool video on YouTube and you can immediately share it with your friends, so long as they also have the YouTube app installed. And of course, a lot of people do have the YouTube app on their devices – millions of iOS users have downloaded the app and it’s included on Android by default.
It makes sense, right? Now that it’s easier to share YouTube content directly, within the app itself, more people will do that than click on the Facebook or Twitter button and go share it over there. Right?
This is the same flawed approach Google has repeatedly taken in social, that if you give people an improved or streamlined experience, they’ll use that instead. But they won’t.
Why? Because their friends are on Facebook already. Adding a new chat experience means people need to re-align how they do things, where they share, how they get others involved. And most just won’t bother.
This is the same problem with Google’s new Allo messaging app – yes, it’s good looking and it has cool features like Google Assistant built in, but most people have already established their networks of friends on Messenger and WhatsApp. In order for them to switch to Allo, they’d need to convince all of those friends to also come across in order to make it worth their while, which ultimately means Allo likely won’t see any significant take-up, despite being an arguably more advanced and better messaging platform.
Google+ was the same – its systems may have been better, more advanced, but it offered no key differentiation from the existing options outside of that, which meant users felt no real compulsion to switch across. Everything they cared about was already on Facebook.
Of course, that’s not to say a new option can’t come in – Snapchat’s been able to take audience share from the established players by offering something users can’t get anywhere else, cool new features and tools that differentiate it from the pack and appeal to audiences looking for an alternative. But that differentiation is key.
So, yeah, YouTube might soon have a new messaging system, and it looks okay, functional. But I doubt you’ll see a big enough migration of users across to this option to make it a serious marketing consideration. Maybe, as you build up YouTube subscribers, you could use this to help spread the word. But then again, you’re probably better off using the other platforms where you have established connections and communities, as encouraging more action on those networks will produce greater return in increased reach.
If YouTube’s able to add something new to the process, some new messaging tools or features that make users want to check it out, the option could be something, but right now, in test phase, it looks like another Google social attempt that will be cool to know about, might even have some interesting quirks and benefits. But probably won’t become a major challenger in the space.