The Fate of Google+: Rounding Up the Best Theories

May 21, 2014

google plus fate

Last month’s announcement of shake-ups in Google’s structure has the industry doing a collective head scratch over what Google is up to, particularly whether or not it spells the end of the Google+ social network. And, while none of us have insider information, we do have a lot on which to speculate.

Come On, Google. Aren’t You Even Going to Try?

Prior to the recent Google+ hullaballoo, brands were up in arms (and still are) over Facebook’s algorithm changes that, in a nutshell, require brands to pay to reach the majority of their Facebook audience. Add to that, we have The Infinite Dial 2014 report from Edison Research that indicates a steady growth in Google+ while growth on Twitter and Facebook has slowed.

Seems that Google+ could have been in a prime position to capture market share and yet, we saw no splashy campaigns or even subtle pushes to tout its advantages over the competition.

Edison’s Tom Webster along with Marketing Companion co-host Mark Schaefer discussed the perplexities of the situation in a recent podcast, How to Fix Google+. Webster cites Google’s “fail fast” philosophy and the many platforms they’ve shuttered over the years while Schaefer asserts that perhaps Google+ lacked “cool factor” necessary to achieve mainstream adoption and win over Twitter and Facebook users. (The discussion is much broader than that – if you haven’t already done so, definitely check it out.)

Google Isn’t in the Social Game. They Are Using Us to Train Robots.

In having this conversation over dinner with my friend and former colleague, Jennifer Kane, she referenced this article, stating that products like Google+ (and its predecessors like Buzz, Wave, and everyone’s beloved Reader) are not Google’s game and perhaps, these products are merely tools playing a part in a larger strategy of data collection in which Google is using human behavior to train robots.  Every time you post, search, try and fail a Captcha – that human behavior could be used to train a robotic brain.

Let that sink in for a moment. Did your brain explode? Mine did.

Google Is Still Google. They’re Not Going Anywhere and Neither Should You.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Google+ expert Martin Shervington, takes a no-hype reaction to the news. In this interview on the Social Pros Podcast, he and Jay Baer discuss “Google+ as a layer and not a destination,” asserting that while the platform may change, what will remain is 1) Google’s need for social signal and 2) their strength in search (and social search) engine optimization.

Shervington presents a pretty strong case for not buying into the hype, but instead, continuing to understand how to optimize for Google the platform.

One thing we can’t deny is that Google is a mammoth and not going anywhere. The trivial products we speculate on are tiny pieces in a pie that most of us know little about.* Undoubtedly, change is inevitable and as marketers in this space, we must plat our feet on a solid strategy that allows us to be nimble in this landscape.

Honestly? I’ve got a closer eye on Google+ these days, and am doing some experimenting there. What have we got to lose?

* Bonus content: check out this Marketing Over Coffee episode with Jason Calacanis, Why Google Wins Everything.

Photo via Flickr user Carlo Luna
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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.