We’ve all heard the naysayers.
The people decrying Google Plus, claiming it’s a waste of time, a ghost town, a social network without the social aspect.
This has led to plenty of people opting out without even considering what Plus is capable of.
Users have bemoaned the fact that it isn’t like Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, or Instagram.
And that’s an accurate description, but the conclusions that many of us have reached aren’t quite so accurate.
The first thing to point out, and of course it’s obvious, is the fact that Google Plus is a social network run by (you’ve guessed it) Google. That’s only one of the reasons why Google+ will never die.
One of the most powerful tech companies in the world.
But there have been some changes recently, and Google Plus has a new image, a new brand, and a new approach.
So, what does this mean for marketers?
Should we just ignore Google Plus and let it die quietly?
Or should we be using the service, and prolonging its life?
Wait, I Thought G+ Was as Good as Dead
If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re not in the minority.
Many marketing professionals have been quick to pronounce the social network as a waste of time, money, and effort.
L2 founder Scott Galloway, in a talk titled ‘The Four Horseman: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google’, said:
‘Google+ is already dead. It has a 98% decline in engagement rate, year-over-year.’
And when you consider the original intentions of Google plus, it seems that Galloway’s pronouncement is accurate.
‘Google+ is a response to the disruption of Web 2.0 and the emergence of the social web. It is the social fabric that weaves together Google’s various platforms, from AdWords to YouTube.’
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter truly changed the internet, and the search engine paradigm. Google was quick to notice that this would impact on its business model, but they weren’t quick to respond.
Google realised that Facebook was eating into its market share, and users were spending increasing amounts of time on Mark Zuckerberg’s platform. G+ was an effort to restore balance to the digital universe. But it didn’t quite go to plan.
Google Plus was late to the party, and hardly anyone noticed its arrival.
In essence G+ is for Googlers, but most people simply use the search engine, rather than buy into the brand ethos.
As Steve Denning of Forbes puts it:
‘The assumption of Google+, like Google Health and Google PowerMeter, is that users would enjoy spending time organizing their information. Geeks may like organizing their information but normal people don’t. Google keeps making the same error over and over again, because it listens to its employees, ahead of its customers.’
So, with all of this in mind, is there any hope for G+? Or was it always DOA?
The New and Improved Google+
It seems that Google have taken most of these concerns on board. On November 17th, 2015, the tech company introduced their new and improved social network.
‘…we’ve spent a lot of time listening to what people using Google+ had to say. There were two features they kept coming back to: Communities, which now average 1.2 million new joins per day, and Collections, which launched just five months ago and is growing even faster.’
Screenshot of Google Plus and its new Communities Layout.
Screenshot of Google Plus and its new Collections feature.
Communities, and Collections, that’s Google’s hope for the future. And it seems to be paying off, too. Both of those features are distinct and relevant to Google and its audience.
With these updates, it’s clear that Google isn’t letting its social network die off anytime soon.
So, what are Communities and Collections all about?
‘Communities, which in its present form has 1.2m ‘joins’ from people each day, the company claims, allows people to join sections they’re interested in — such as Game of Thrones. Collections gives a view of the latest content on broader topics — Google gives surfing as an example — and allows you to gather material from across the web to share.’
It’s certainly a new approach for Google Plus, and I can’t help but notice the similarities between these new features, and the structure of Reddit.
However Google’s variant is glossy, easily navigated, and it makes Facebook’s interface look dated.
The added focus on community, and connecting with people, turns Google Plus into a more social network than any other currently on offer. Instead of localised newsfeeds, there’s huge scope for reaching out and conversing with strangers over a shared love of a given topic.
But, for that to truly be effective, there has to be plenty of people using the network. Growth does seem to be on the cards, though, with Google reporting that 1.2m people are joining Communities each day.
Dismantling, Rebuilding, Rebranding
What has emerged from Google’s tinkering with Plus is a stripped down approach. Rather than viewing Plus as a social network, Google now considers it as a platform.
Which seems like a savvy concept, and another reason why Google+ will never die.
Don’t fight Facebook’s newsfeed structure; create something entirely different.
So, in the future, Plus will be all about its features. Hangouts, Streams, and Community, and Collections will allow users to connect with other people, organise information based on their likes, and better navigate the internet within a more structured environment.
Which is an interesting approach, and something that does indeed seem future proof.
Facebook’s newsfeed, Reddit’s interface, and Instagram’s visual style all rolled into one – this sounds far better than positioning Plus as a new social network, modelled on the old.
But will it work?
That depends on users.
For now though Google is plowing onwards, and Plus is here to stay.
What’s A Marketer to Do?
I use Google Plus to share my articles, and curated content.
What I’ve always noticed is the fact that my writing appears in Google’s search results, but the first link to appear is rarely from the site I’ve written the content for.
Usually, the highest link is to the post on Google Plus.
This not only appears in my search results, but also on the search results of the people following me on Plus.
This is an interesting avenue for marketers to explore. It seems that with Google Plus we can influence and shape search results for fans of our brands. So, the social network is effective as an SEO tool – something that shouldn’t be discounted.
Yes, audiences may be smaller on Google Plus, but they are also relevant, and likely to be more engaged than on other social networks.
According to Steve Denning:
‘In aggregate terms, one can also argue that Google+’s engagement rate also did relatively well: it increased by 18%, while Facebook’s aggregate engagement increased by only 9%. However the numbers also suggest that some large brand advertisers were encountering disappointment on Google+ in this period.’
So it seems that Plus is a good avenue for brands to explore, especially with its higher engagement rate than Facebook.
But there is a caveat: large brands don’t do so well on the platform.
Does this mean that it’s an avenue ripe for smaller brands to exploit?
In my experience it seems that way. I get more traffic from G+ on my website than I do from Facebook, and I have a good deal more followers on that social network.
That’s not to say that I would use G+ exclusively, and it’s not to say that I even visit the platform regularly.
But the ability to influence and shape search results towards followers’ interests is certainly a powerful marketing tool.
‘While our Company Google Plus Page does not have a lot of followers, it does seem to give us a boost when it comes to how visible our blog posts are in Google Searches.’
Using Google Plus For Marketing in 2016
Plus is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and it provides a platform ripe for marketers to exploit.
‘In terms of marketing, businesses that want to reach people who are passionate about something will find it easier to do so with the new changes to Google+.’
That word that Google loves, and marketers saturate – relevancy. That’s what defines Plus and its new and improved image.
Collections and Communities allow marketers to tap into already organised and engaged audiences and provide them with relevant content.
In essence, the Google Plus that was derided and mocked is gone. But the new leaner version looks more future proof, and better suited to its audience.
It’s a Google product through and through, designed with organisation in mind. It’s taken a form that is in some ways more exclusive, but that only adds to its marketing potential.
Just like with Reddit and its subreddit structure, it’s now possible to use Plus to target the right users with the right information. And it’s likely to be a kinder environment than Reddit.
‘The result is that Google+ is less of the confused Facebook clone it launched as…
Instead, it’s similar to sites such as Reddit and Pinterest, giving the company a chance of encouraging more dedicated users by becoming the go-to location for conversation around a particular interest.
That focus is also useful for another reason: advertising. It’s significantly easier to sell adverts against users already greatly segmented according to interests, although Google doesn’t yet allow advertisers to take signals from membership in Plus communities.’
Perhaps it’s fair to suggest that as the original Redditors grow up, they’ll look for a more professional environment to share and congregate around content.
Will that place be Google Plus?
Only time will tell.
For now, though, marketers can start to explore and target relevant audiences thanks to the new and improved Google Plus.
Find the right Community, and you just might tap into an existing audience crying out for your content.
Free Consultation Call
Were you blindsided by Google Plus and its new streamlined approach?
Have you skipped out on the social network altogether?
Worry no more.
At Storkey Media we’re brand enthusiasts, and we pride ourselves in staying ahead of the pack.
We can galvanise your social media efforts, and help you build a relevant and engaged audience.