Google Plus and the Empty Restaurant Theory
Your favorite restaurant – the one you believe to have absolutely the best food in town – might not be the busiest eatery and you may often have wondered why. After all, it even has better seats and greater decor than the ones you know of. You’ve told your friends about it, suggested it at meetings and even stumbled their website yet people pass it en mass to go to some gitty place down the road.
The word is “viral.” It does not have it. It hasn’t tickled fancies. It hasn’t spread. And now it has a problem. First of all, the owner/s would not know how things become viral because… nobody knows. If they are marketing experts they could help push it along quite some distance. But as the saying goes, ‘Only half of advertising works and nobody can tell me which half.’ John Wanamaker said so and he was not only a tycoon but is also considered as the father of modern advertising and a pioneer in marketing. His actual quote: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
One thing we do know about places is that if they are empty, no matter how good they are, people will give it a pass. They will look through the window, see that there are but a few people seated, and look the other way. That is the Empty Restaurant Theory. They’ll go where others go. That’s just a human thing. Humans are herd animals. They do the same for products. Few people buy those items other people seem to skip – even if the quality and the price of the product is good.
Thus we have these figures: some 60% of businesses fail within the first year and 80% of the survivors will not make it for a further 5 years. Because the crowds gave them a wide berth.
All is not lost, however. Because in the same way we do not understand why the crowd rushes to one place/product but skip another we also do not always understand why those very same people sometimes change direction and head back to the one place, like that one you’ve always been convinced that is so good anyhow. Good advertising and strong promotions are some reasons. Good service another. A good product definitely counts. (Pricing has hardly anything to do with viral marketing.) In the end, it will be word-of-mouth. In short, a persevering synergy of all the good factors of marketing – instead of a single factor – is the strongest base for getting the crowds… and have to opportunity to get the business to go viral.
And this brings us to the new Google Plus. Will it suffer from the Empty Restaurant Theory? Or will it provide a synergy of good things and go viral? Time will tell.
People have tasted MySpace, enjoyed it and left to Facebook. How long will Facebook be able to keep the crowd coming back? Will they leave for GooglePlus? Nobody knows. (Keeping in mind that it is fairly easy to get a crowd but to keep them is another challenge.)
Fortunately for Google, they own other (rather lucrative) hangouts: the google search engine, youtube, gmail and adwords. So go ahead, don’t feel sorry for them – have your cake and eat it… it is your time and your money. Spend it well.