Lady Gaga is not on Google+. Nor is Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber or many other mega-celebrities, but apparently, Google wants to change that.
CNN reports that Google is drawing up a “celebrity acquisition plan” for its new social network, including a way to verify famous people as the real deal. Google won’t confirm the plans, but CNN says it has internal Google e-mails and an on-the-record source from outside the company as proof.
Getting celebrities on Google+ makes sense at a glance. After all, Twitter had its mainstream moments when Winfrey tried out the service and Kutcher engaged in a follower war with CNN. For a burgeoning social network like Google+, bringing in celebrities is a quick and dirty way to attract the common folk.
But that doesn’t mean bringing in celebrities is the best way for Google+ to grow. Positioning Google+ as another place to follow celebrities might even be detrimental in the long run.
The main feature of Google+ is its social circles, which allow users to organize their contacts into groups. That way, you can easily hide your posts about weekend bar crawls from your co-workers and spare your friends the yapping about TPS reports. The whole point of this system is to maintain tight control on who sees what.
If you consider how Google+ might be integrated into other Google services, awesome possibilities abound. Theoretically, you could create a circle of work collaborators and share documents with them in Google Docs. You could post a video to only family members on YouTube. You could create a circle of fellow gamers so only they see your updates in Farmville (or whatever the rumored Google+ Games will offer). You could create events in Google calendar and only invite your circle of local friends. The list goes on and on.
Celebrities would do nothing to promote these potential Google+ uses. You may think Justin Bieber winked at you during that concert last weekend, but there’s no way he’s putting you in his friend circle. Celebrities primarily use platforms like Twitter and Facebook for promotion and publicity. If they invade Google+, it’ll give ordinary users the impression that the service is just another Twitter or Facebook. No one needs that.
Google+ has the potential to do things differently. Instead of just duplicating existing social networks, it can become a social layer for the Google products you’re already using. If Google wants to verify the accounts of famous people for accuracy’s sake, that’s fine. But chasing them down just to make Google+ seem more popular distracts from what the service can become.