Last March, after it experienced an unfortunate data breach, Google announced that Google+ would be changing. The data breach wasn’t the reason. Google+ never really took off as a social media alternative to Facebook as Google had hoped. For a brief period, people were using it as a sort of professional LinkedIn before they decided LinkedIn worked better for that (and many more people were using it to network and promote business interests). No one seemed to either know how to or want to use Google+ to stay in touch with friends or family, though. What went wrong?
Relative to Facebook, Google+ entered the market late. By the time Google+ premiered, Facebook was already the place for people to connect socially. In the mid to late aughties, Facebook was very popular across age groups. Baby Boomers were willing to learn a new interface to be able to check in with old classmates and distant family and post their photos and personal opinions for their friends to weigh in on. When Google+ appeared, it didn’t seem to offer anything new. Learning how to use it was just another hurdle, especially for people who weren’t internet savvy. What was the point?
Google configured Google+ as a company enhancement product rather than a social network. It was designed to improve communication within Google itself. Unfortunately, how people communicate with coworkers is not the same way they talk to people they choose to socialize with. Google relied on a circle concept where you could set up a group of people to discuss certain topics, like establishing a number of clubs or discussion groups. Most people didn’t want to curate their social circles that tightly, and they didn’t appear to want to give Google that much access to them either. Perhaps they sensed that Google wanted access to their personal data to improve their algorithm.
There were other problems too, including the fact that Google+ was the project of Vic Gundotra who left the company abruptly in 2014 with no succession plan in place.
Of course, Google+ isn’t going to disappear. Currently Google+ operates as a login hub for anyone with a Google account. It’s the first step to accessing Gmail, Google drive, and other Google products. It’s also very useful for organizing your photos online. Google has announced that, moving forward, Google+ will be focusing on photos and streams.
If your company has been using Google+ in order to promote business interests, it would be wise to choose a different social media platform for social media marketing. If your employees have been using Google+ circles to communicate and exchange ideas, you have most of the next year to find an alternative and migrate any data you have on the platform. Watch Google for details during this wind-down period.