Google’s Social Trojan Horse? Google+ Events.

Published on June 28, 2012
by Mike Isaac

Since its inception one year ago today, the most familiar critique of Google+ has been Google’s sign-up strategy. As users face prompts from many of Google’s popular existing properties to upgrade their accounts to include Google+ profiles, it has felt like more of a strong-arm approach than a welcome invitation.

There’s a better, more personal approach. And Google may have just found it.

First unveiled at the I/O developer conference on Wednesday, the Events feature allows Google+ users to send out customized invitations to their friends both on and off the Google+ platform. It’s helpful in that it’ll auto-update invitees’ Google Calendars if they accept, and acts as a single repository for event photos; essentially, everyone at the event can take photos and automatically send them to the same place.

On its own, it doesn’t seem like the kind of feature that would make one rush out to use Google+. But here’s the thing: If Google can convince even a small number of existing Google+ users to start sending out event invites, the network could wind up getting a whole bunch of new users.

Example: I’m not on Google+, but I receive an invite to a wedding from a friend who is part of the network. If I click through the email to the invitation, I’m greeted with a big, Google-branded prompt to join Google+. So in essence, it acts as a direct mail solicitation service, powered by a group of people who are much more convincing than Google: Your friends and family.

The tough part from there? Convincing everyone to stick around. Sign-ups exploded when Google+ first debuted, but the main takeaway afterward was that the whole platform became a ghost town — plenty of houses, but no one at home.

It’s possible that Google plans to fight attrition with more real-time feature integration. Hangouts — the on-air group video chat service — has been the service’s most compelling draw to date, offering a far better feature set than Facebook’s one-to-one Skype integration. And the “Party mode” part of Events allows everyone in attendance to instantly upload pictures to the same album using the Google+ mobile app, creating a living, real-time photo journal of a specific time and place.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee anyone will use the service, though it’s off to a promising start: More than 1,000 people used Party mode at Google’s official I/O shindig on Wednesday evening, contributing upward of 13,000 photographs over the course of the night.

Now that’s a party. We’ll see who sticks around to clean up after.

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