Bradley Horowitz stated last week:
We want to formally retire the notion that a Google+ membership is required for anything at Google… other than using Google+ itself.
With Google+ being broken down into just 3 components (Hangouts, Photos & Streams), and the rest of it’s features being binned, it really feels like this is the death of Google’s experimental social platform. It certainly is the death of it as we know it. Whilst Google+ achieved a high number of sign-ups, it is no secret that it did so by coercing users of Google’s other products into making a profile. Unfortunately, whilst the numbers look good on paper, the number of people engaging on G+ has been consistently low all along in comparison to its competitors. I imagine there was resentment involved for many, at being forced into signing up, but also there was a lot of confusion amongst the general public – certainly many of my friends – of what the benefits of it were, or how to use it, even. So, where did it all go wrong for Google+? And what lessons can be taken from this social platform breakdown?
Where it went wrong for Google+
Overall, it always felt like Google+ was a bit behind the times, which is of course surprising when you think about how current Google are as a company. Whilst competitors such as Facebook and Twitter are constantly updating their platforms to keep on top of their game and keep interest high, Google+ always felt a bit like it was left at the starting blocks, in a cloud of social media dust. It has also been suggested that Google+ never responded to the needs and wants of its users in the same way as others.
A serious issue, which caused outrage online, was that Google+ didn’t let you choose your own social identity; you had to sign up using your full, real name. No exceptions. This caused particular indignation within the YouTube community – a community famous for its prolific (and sometimes charming) use of the comments feature on videos. This is currently being rectified for YouTube users, and the internet is rejoicing:
YOUTUBE AND GOOGLE+ ARE BREAKING UP AND I’M SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS. NORMALLY BREAKUPS ARE SAD, BUT THIS IS GLORIOUS.
— Jesse (@jessethereader) July 29, 2015
Of course, some saw the real name implementation as a positive thing, and will be disappointed YouTubers can now go back to hiding behind usernames. After so much discussion in the news about ‘cyber bullying’, the benefits of being able to know someone’s real identity online are clear. However, this doesn’t appear to be an issue Google+ could help with.
Google+ also made it impossible to share on the platform using your personal account if you prefer to use social management tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer. Whilst some will have worked around this, many will have simply been put off. In such busy times, social media needs to be easily accessible and user-friendly, or we just go elsewhere and never look back.
Lessons for brands, marketeers and platform creators
The main lesson for brands to take away from the Google+ disbanding is, don’t put all of your marketing eggs in one social media platform basket. I’m sure no brand or marketeer would do this, but concentrating solely on one platform would leave you very vulnerable. Imagine the time you’ve pumped into Facebook, suddenly being made pointless. After all, you, as a brand and account owner, are not in control of Twitter, Facebook or any other social platform. Nothing is set in stone, so tread carefully. And if you happen to be considering setting up a new social media platform (as you do), the key rules seem to be: be easy to use, grow users organically, listen to users… oh, and don’t annoy them!