In October, Google announced that it was shutting Google+ for consumers. This didn’t come as a huge surprise to most industry insiders, the platform had been struggling to make headway.
While Google+ does have its stalwarts – there’s a petition to keep it open signed by some 35,000 members – the general consensus has always been that it was living on borrowed time.
So, what caused the final nail in the Google+ coffin?
The Data Breach
A lot of the blame has been put on a large data breach that took place which exposed data held in around half a million accounts. The big news here wasn’t so much the breach occurred, however, but that Google decided to keep quiet about it. Seven months passed before we got to hear about what had happened.
At the time of the breach, Facebook was having its own problems with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. There’s a strong suggestion that the powers that be at Google didn’t want to suffer any reputational damage or scrutiny from governmental bodies. Whatever the reason, keeping users in the dark for seven months wasn’t one of the company’s better decisions.
Google had been carrying out a deep privacy review around this time and produced a report under the grand-sounding name of Project Strobe. This found that they were unlikely to be able to deliver a product in Google+ that met customers’ expectations. The breach, many feel, was a good excuse to get rid of it. Rumours that Google were going to kill off G+, however, had been circulating well before the data breach in March 2018.
What’s The Real Reason for the Google+ Failure?
We tend to think of Google as this really successful, big, global brand. Yes, it’s all that. But it’s also had failures along the way. Google Health never really got off the ground and Google Notebook has also disappeared of the radar. But you can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs!
Google+ was always seen as more of a marketing tool than a true social community like Facebook or Twitter. That may be the fault of the brand name which is so inextricably linked to search engine optimisation. The platform did attract its fair share of marketers, link builders and spammers as well as being swamped with the more nefarious posts.
All this didn’t hide the fact that G+ just wasn’t that popular with other communities beyond businesses and ardent techie types. Since it’s launch in 2011, it’s always played second fiddle to more established social media brands like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
What’s Going to Happen Now?
The consumer version of Google+ will shut down on 2nd April (not August 2019 as they previously stated). If you have a personal account and any content that you want to save or retrieve, you need to do it before then.
If you are a business with a Google+ account rather than an individual, you will still be able to use it, though it’s not clear what benefits you will get. Google have promised new tools and surprises for enterprise customers but what form this will take still remains to be seen.
To my mind, the business side of G+ still has legs, depending on what the “surprises” are. Historically if we posted a short snippet and a link to an article on our site, it would only take a few short hours for the post to appear, quite high, in the search engine organic results. This has been extremely useful in our combined social media and SEO strategies.
Taking the positive from the closure, G+ now have an opportunity to give business marketers a valuable tool, perhaps one that would replace/rival the value Facebook Business pages used to provide? We will have to wait and see.