Goodnight Google Plus

Being Social.

As Google Plus writhes around in it’s final death throes what can we learn about how Google got it so wrong?

Hailed as the end of Facebook when launched in the summer of 2011, Google Plus singularly failed to catch the imagination of the Internet world. And for good reasons.

When Facebook appeared it was substantially better than MySpace, the previous torch bearer for social networking. MySpace has turned into a living hell of auto-play music and crassly designed profiles with no real purpose. Facebook made it all very uniform and easy to use.

Google’s had a couple of goes at social, starting with Orkut, but this was the very serious attempt to unseat Facebook and to do that they threw everything at it, including an estimated £350 million.

But they botched the launch. Loyal Google users who already paid to use Google services were the first lot to excluded as the new social network prohibited them from access. Then they limited it to “Over 18s”, when at the time the fastest growing segment in Facebook were teens (who have subsequently moved elsewhere, fickle bunch eh!).

Then, out of the public eye, they forced organisations to use and abuse the network in an attempt to “accredit” the authors of content. No one really cared but massive social programmes sprung up to deal with the wholesale move to sharing content with what was rapidly becoming a noisy wasteland. It became, in essence, a grey-hat SEO playground.

It did achieve a massive increase in “logged-in” searches on sister sites such as Google Search and Youtube. This was great for Google as it now had a whole load more data on people but gave nothing back to the Google Plus community.

During 2011, Google Plus seemed to be setting new records every day, fastest growing network, highest number of downloads from iTunes etc. The numbers kept rolling in but under all the noise and big numbers it was still a site that lacked good relevant content. It was fast becoming the world’s largest link-farm, and no-one likes link farms.

And then in April this year, the head of Google Plus abruptly left and most of the 1,500 team were disbanded to work on Android (Hmmm, watch that closely).

Google Plus will not go away, it’s already moved to be a platform for other services such as Photos and Hangouts. And, of course, Google’s big win was a massive increase of logged in users that can be monetised. Have Google made good on the £350m investment? Probably not.

Social has become highly nuanced (sic), we all communicate online using the same basic tools of words and imagery. But that is where the similarity ends, the how and when are now more important and we don’t all want to be the same single entity in every communication channel.

This opens the door to a plethora of social/communication networks and probably spells the end of the drive for “one ring to bind them all”. We use Tumblr, Twitter, Skype, Facebook, Ello, LinkedIn and many other channels to distinguish how and where we communicate.

  • I totally disagree with this article. Google+ is my premier social network. A social network does not have to be Facebook in numbers to be a success. Still, it’s the second largest network in the world (actually the biggest if you include YouTube). Non users underestimate the power of Google+. ´+ + + +

  • MartinDower

    Thanks for your comment, Ronnie. Appreciated.

    I agree that size is not an indicator and I also agree that many of the Google Apps, specifically Hangouts and Photos have a lot of value – in fact I actually stated that. I also agree, as one of your articles covers, the role of Google Play and Youtube in the music/video/games social space is interesting – specifically in the mobile space.

    The historical challenge Google + comes from it’s positioning against FB and Twitter. And a somewhat draconian “you must be logged in to use any Google services” that appears to have disproportionately boosted the “active users”.

  • An accurate assessment in my eyes, Google+ is inarguably moribund in its existing state. Attempting to force business users to embrace it was a dirty move and now that’s been abandoned the only benefits it brings (Hangouts etc) can easily be stripped away from its rotting carcass. Claiming ‘Google+ has overtaken Twitter on social media’ is meaningless when there’s no real distinction between the few people who create content on it and everyone else who is literally forced into registering as a user because of their Android phone, email account etc. Only 2% of social shares are made via Google+, they can’t even compete with LinkedIn which must have been quite a depressing realization. Well, unless they actually believe their own ‘we’re not trying to compete with ‘ rhetoric…