Google+: To Be or Not to Be – That Is the Big Question




Can you believe it’s been 3 years since Google introduced its social media platform Google+? In its 3-year lifespan, Google has put tremendous priority on its social hope. Before Google+, the search giant pushed other social players including Orkut and Google Buzz. There were also brief moments with Dodgeball and Latitude. However, none of them could quite reach the competitive level of Facebook.

Though Google+ was initially thought by many to be a threat to Facebook, new reports and events question its livelihood. What do you think? Do you use Google+? Does it benefit you and your business?

In the early days, Google+ appeared to hold viability. Respected social media personality Chris Brogan advocated the platform and even wrote the book, Google+ for Business. Google really put a strong emphasis on it with CEO Larry Page tying employee bonuses to the success of the company’s social platform in 2011.

While it’s been clear that Google saw vast potential in Google+, the company appears to have been somewhat overly confident. Google released some misleading statistics and received a backlash for fudging its growth numbers.

More recently, Google began embedding Google+ into each of its products making it nearly impossible to use services such as Gmail and YouTube without adopting the social network. We wrote about this last year and pointed out some user concerns:

Many people feel that Google+ has been forced onto them for Google’s benefit and not their own. This is why Google+ numbers have been somewhat skewed in the past as well. Google+ has also recently faced scrutiny for integrating Google+ further into YouTube… Now, users comment using their Google+ profiles, a.k.a., their real names in most cases.

In April, the platform faced another blow when the network’s leader Vic Gundotra left the company. Known as the father of Google+, questions started arising as to whether he was giving up on the social service. The recent birthday has only given people more of a reason to raise questions. Some reports have speculated that Google has plans to reorganize Google+ and break it down into separate services such as video chatting, instant messaging and photo storage.

Another event that raised even more questions was the fact that Google+ had no mention at the recent annual Google developer’s conference.

Earlier this year, Google told The New York Times it had 540 million monthly active users. Whether more or less now, this number still doesn’t compare to the more than 1 billion users Facebook has. Simply put, Google+ lacks the traction it needs to compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Businesses and particularly marketers have been hesitant to dismiss Google+ due to the parent company of Google. This is significant given Google’s prominence in the search and advertising market. Search marketers have specifically put emphasis on Google+ in relation to Authorship and search ranking purposes.

So, where does this leave you?

At this point, marketers aren’t abandoning Google+. But, it’s not for the social benefit it brings. It’s for the search advantage. Again, candidly put, marketers want to do everything they can to stay in Google’s good graces in terms of search ranking.

Still, this is not to say that Google+ will step up to a Facebook level. Just in the past couple of weeks, Google announced that it was dropping profile photos and Google+ circle count from authorship in search results, which could largely impact how the search marketing community reacts to Google+ moving forward.

In spite of all the criticism, Larry Page continues to maintain Google+’s momentum. He recently spoke to The New York Times and indicated high hopes.

Q. Is “social” as important to you now as it was two years ago?

 A. Mr. Page: Yes, if anything, probably more important. We have a very excited, dedicated community. People forget we’re able to make our services better by understanding your relationships, making sharing work and understanding identity. These are deep and important things for us as a company.

When people ask about Google Plus they think about it as, “I’m going to the stream.” For us, Google Play reviews are part of Google Plus, too. We see all those things growing and being important for us.

Ultimately, the verdict is still out for Google+. Not all the signs look promising, but before you completely discount it, remember Google’s search and advertising influence. Most importantly, look at your current analytics. Are you getting referrals from Google+? Is it helping your ranking? If not, then you probably should look to other channels that you are benefiting from and invest more time there.

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Abby Johnson

Abby brings a unique perspective to the mix because her background consists of both traditional broadcast and public relations to now the world of online. She is very skilled at looking at the big picture and understanding how to get the message across to a particular audience.

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