Why won’t Google let go of the ‘Google Plus’ Dream?

By Simon Ensor
Social Media 17.05.2017

Okay, confession time. Over the past year or two we have given Twitter a bit of a hard time, from commenting on their internal turmoil to their lack of innovation and slow rate of growth. Twitter’s saving grace? They still get substantial publicity through news outlets, celebrities and their users which has so far allowed them to cling on as one of the larger players in the space. As interesting as it might be to update you guys on the goings on at Twitter, that is not the purpose of this article. We want to talk Google Plus.

We like Google – or do we mean Alphabet? Either way their search engine dominates the SEO campaigns we run for clients and is therefore an integral part of our livelihoods here at Yellowball. They are also pretty likeable as a business with their swanky cool offices, Android, Google itself, self driving cars, the list goes on. As a corporation, they have an influence on just about everyone’s daily lives which makes it more amazing that they have been able to somehow divert everyone’s attention from their all but failed attempt to compete in the social media space. It wouldn’t be a surprise to us if you asked a child (who has Snapchat and Instagram) if they knew what Google Plus was only to be returned a blank and incomprehensible stare. What is just as mind boggling is that, unlike MySpace, Bebo or Vine, Google is refusing to ‘give up the ghost’!

Google is STILL Rolling Out Changes – but for whom?

In early 2017 Google Plus’ product manager Danielle Buckley released a particularly upbeat post that detailed some of the improvements that were incoming for the platform. These included the jettisoning of the old Google Plus designs, the ability to hide ‘low quality comments’ and the return of events. Danielle said that they had listened to feedback which begs the question: who on earth is giving feedback?

Google have been understandably pretty cautious about their user statistics. The platform saw some strong growth figures when it launched in 2011 but these were often warped by the fact that back then you had to sign up to Google Plus to comment on Youtube. Personally, I know of no-one that actively uses Google Plus. For all you trolls out there, yes I do not know everyone in the world…but not a single person? There are some accounts of specific communities using Google Plus as the post 2015 content curation platform for which it is intended, but even these groups have pitifully small numbers.

Not convinced? Let’s look at a quick snapshot of engagement on profiles that were on my feed this morning:

Richard Branson posted a video around a week ago in his A to Z of business. Here are the stats:

Platform         ‘Likes’        ‘Comments’       ‘Shares’

Facebook         480            48                        70

Instagram       4,149          140                      n/a

LinkedIn         1,406           40                       n/a

Twitter            449             24                       219

Google +          99               10                        7

As you can see above, on a single post G+ has come in dead last for all three criteria for social media engagement.

Upon further investigation into some of the more industry specific accounts that I follow (or is that ‘circle’?) there is literally a handful of +1’s or comments whereas other platforms have hundreds of these engagement metrics on similar posts.

So why is Google Holding On?

It is somewhat baffling. They continue to release updates and improvements whilst they also de couple other products from Google Plus. Youtube no longer requires a Google Plus profile and hangouts are being replaced by Youtube Live. The evidence, from the presumably low usership numbers to the lack of engagement and previous failure to create a mainstream platform, does beg the question: why is Google persisting?

They are simultaneously pulling the ejector seat handle whilst gripping onto the joystick to prevent any escape.

There are a few factors that come to mind: chasing a dream, an attempt to salvage some pride after a failed enterprise, lulling us all into a false sense of security prior to their inter galactic takeover.

Searchable and Curated Content

For a couple of years now Google has been positioning Google Plus as a social network upon which content is curated, where communities can gather to share and discuss the content that they post. It offers a social media platform which is tailored towards the gathering of great content and like minded people compared with the focal points of other platforms. It essentially takes the groups found on LinkedIn and Facebook and thrusts them into the limelight. In that aspect, Google Plus does have its merits…

….but then again Vine had its merits and that has all but ceased to exist.

With all the great things that Google offers us as users, Google Plus appears to be the non-starter which has somehow lingered for around six years now.

Have Marketers Kept G+ it Alive?

As we mentioned a couple of years ago now, Google leveraged their extensive user base to help with the launch of their social network. Whether that be the now defunct necessity of needing a profile to comment on Youtube or access other products, it certainly helped their cause.

There is a strong argument to say that, had Google not been the owners of Google Plus, that the platform would have become part of the archives of internet history years ago. Furthermore, that SEOs and social media marketers have contributed to its presence in 2017! A lot of the literature out there that discusses the merits of G+ will at some point mention the fact that Google owns the platform and therefore posting to it will increase search visibility and faster indexing. Regardless of whether this is a legitimate reason to be investing time posting to the platform, it has certainly contributed content over the years.

Admittedly a platform which is based upon groups that congregate around specific content is an enticing prospect for SEOs, social media and content marketers alike and we don’t necessarily want to downgrade the efforts that the community is making on Google Plus. It does though raise the question as to whether we should either cut our losses or keep investing. This is somewhat hypocritical in that this will get posted to Google Plus – we don’t want to anger the Overlord too much. Shame on us.

What Does this mean moving forward?

Well…it’s an interesting prospect. As much as we like Google and would not be surprised if they muscle their way in (we were going to write ‘back in’ but let’s face it, the platform never really took off), it does seem like Google are being a little precious over something that they clearly spent a lot of time and money developing. Will they persist? It looks like it. Is it worth it? Probably not.

The icing on the cake was when I wanted one of the designers at Yellowball to mock up an ‘image for a blog post about Google Plus’. Her response was “Why? Do people still use that?”.

Come on Google, just ease the grip and let Google Plus drift away into the abyss.

Let’s work together

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