Why Google+ Isn't Google-worthy

Steve_Martin
Steve Martin Social Media Strategist, Copperfox Marketing

Posted on July 31st 2013

Why Google+ Isn't Google-worthy

Google has a wide scope of products aside from its search engine: Gmail, YouTube, Google Fiber, Google Maps, and more. These aren’t just average products, either. Each one is an innovative leader in its respective category. However, social media is an industry that’s proven difficult for the digital giant to dominate. And Google+ (click here if you need a crash course in Google+) is by no means Google’s only attempt to break into social media; it’s merely the most recent and successful of many tries.

Why won’t Google+ act like a Google product?

Google PlusGoogle+ was eagerly greeted by the Google faithful when it was released in the summer of 2011, but after a short period, users were left wondering about its true value. What social void did Google+ fill? Google+ is simply a social network that allows you to completely control who sees your contributions, but this idea isn’t commonly understood among casual social users. So the real problem in getting people to use Google+ isn’t just the barrier of switching from one network to another, adding a new network to the arsenal, or not having enough incentive to try something different. The real barrier is about education. Most users, even Google+ fanboys would have a difficult time explaining why Google+ is unique and useful. If the communication hurdle can be bridged, there may yet be life in its digital veins.

Google+ is cooking the Internet books

I know someone reading this is seething right now, probably quoting a stat like, “Google+ is outpacing Twitter, according to Business Insider…” But, are they really? I’m not so certain the usage data provided stacks up. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. Because of the ubiquity of Google products, when the company decided to tether logins to each other (Gmail, YouTube, Google+) it skewed the stats. If I want to check Gmail, which I do all day, everyday, it automatically logs into Google+. That doesn’t seem like an accurate representation of my Internet use. Also, if you are thinking about creating a new Gmail account, you have no choice but to create a Google+ account. Google claims to be outpacing Twitter, the #2 in social media, by posting numbers of 359 million users, but in reality we now know that number is far from accurate.

How can Google + really provide value?

Without true innovation that’s intuitive (hangouts are nice, but not enough) Google+ will remain in digital purgatory. One solution for Google+ could be partnerships. Imagine if Google+ combined its capabilities with the likes of Netflix, eBay or Amazon. You could have instantaneous reviews, discuss products with other users, shoot videos of products in use or stream movies with a new friend in a Hangout. The possibilities are endless and could truly spark a social innovation—which in many cases is what sets Google products apart. As someone who uses a bevy of Google products, I would like nothing more than to have Google+ work out. But I refuse to blindly participate when the value is limited. How does Google+ increase its value? Have they already?

Steve_Martin

Steve Martin

Social Media Strategist, Copperfox Marketing

Steve is the social media strategist at Copperfox Marketing, a full-service marketing communications agency in East Hyde Park, Cincinnati. Connect with him on Google+LinkedIn.

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Comments

travisbernard
Posted on July 31st 2013 at 10:22AM

I don't think they are cooking the books dude. They have over 135 million active users, and that doesn't include people that have simply enabled the account through Google products. Read this:

http://marketingland.com/google-hits-135-million-users-27904

Steve_Martin
Posted on July 31st 2013 at 11:05PM

You're correct Travis, that is a more reliable and accurate number. But when reports come out about Google+ taking over the second spot for most used social network, that is when I have to question the validity of the claims. Not that 135 million is bad, but don't you think we have grown to expect more from Google? Thanks for commenting, really appreciate it. 

travisbernard
Posted on August 1st 2013 at 11:23AM

Yeah, I see what you mean. I've seen the reports saying it's the number two social network. When you disect the numbers a little more (as exhibited in the link I posted), I think you get a more accurate figure. At the end of the day Twitter and Facebook are still dominating, and the rest of the social networks have a lot of catching up to do. I'm interested in seeing how Google+ and LinkedIn evolve over the next 6-12 months.

Frerecks
Posted on July 31st 2013 at 1:39PM

Thanks for the post! It does appear as though Google is still working through its' Plus strategy versus some of the legacy options they put out there like 'Places' where people invested a lot of time & effort. Like, for instance, could tying Plus to (yellow page like) business listings be it with reviews, coupons, directions and mapping content all in one place be the value proposition? 

Steve_Martin
Posted on July 31st 2013 at 11:08PM

Great thoughts Chris. I know the whole deals concept is something that is alluring to them and some consumers, but as we've seen with Groupon, deals may not be enough for consumers. So, your idea of a combination of all those seems to have a far greater value and that is the sort of concept that could break the barrier for Google+. I hope they are reading... Thanks for the comment. Love the feedback. 

David Amerland
Posted on August 1st 2013 at 4:02AM

Steve, that's an interesting piece not just for what it purports to cover given the provocative headline but also because it implies you have been active on its platform. I checked out your G+ profile you have just an "About" me page enabled there, no posts, no followers, zero engagement and no way for anyone to engage with you there. Playing devil's advocate here, on this one aspect, I wonder just how deep your experience of the platform goes, particularly when you go on to question the validity of the claims regarding activity on the platform based, I assume, on personal experience rather than stats (unless you have an alternative source, in which case I would love to take a look). 

Back in 2011, Eric Schmidt at the Le Web conference in London, specifically stated that G+ is an "identity service" for the web. The fact that you become a member automatically when you use one of Google's services is key because G+ is central to the creation of an Entity for the individual, in the semantic web (though obviously whether you then take it up and use it is your choice, entirely). This is crucial to being found through search, having authority in social media networks and generating a sense of trust in one's digital profile. Clearly plusses without even getting into the advantage of fast indexing and sometimes automatics hashtagging of posts and links - another key element of semantic search.

These are benefits which are valuable in their own right before we even get into the kind of information flow and engagement that becomes possible through the platform itself. 

 

@rupertbu
Posted on August 1st 2013 at 6:27AM

I cannot see that Steve has responded to your query about his G+ entry, which was excatly my experience having been invited there in his tagline!

Steve_Martin
Posted on August 1st 2013 at 10:06AM

Hi Rupert, I'm having difficulty understanding your comment. But I believe you can't see what I responded? Here is my response... "The given G+ account is not my active account, and I need to remove that one from my profile here. That account was strictly for business, but I decided to not get too involved in it. I use my personal account for Google+, and activity tapered off dramatically on it over the past six months for the reasons mentioned in the post. Thanks for reminding me to change my profile."

@rupertbu
Posted on August 2nd 2013 at 9:44AM

My comment was delayed for 24 hours, so I think you are the one who has no comprehension.

You admit to posting an incorrect link, yet provide no alternative, the one where activity has tapered off, so being honest your views count for very little on a subject you are patently anti!

Steve_Martin
Posted on August 1st 2013 at 7:43AM

The given G+ account is not my active account, and I need to remove that one from my profile here. That account was strictly for business, but I decided to not get too involved in it. I use my personal account for Google+, and activity tapered off dramatically on it over the past six months for the reasons mentioned in the post. Thanks for reminding me to change my profile. 

David Amerland
Posted on August 2nd 2013 at 10:35AM

Steve, thank you for replying. Just out of curiousity, what is your other G+ account? I can't seem to find you on G+. 

Steve_Martin
Posted on January 10th 2014 at 12:51PM

Hey David, 

Circling back here (no pun intended.) You were correct on G+. I couldn't have gotten it more wrong. Anyways, I specifically cite your challenge as one of the reasons I am grateful to participate in G+ now. So in a very roundabout way, thanks! If you have time, please check out my article about the matter. http://ow.ly/ssLZK

Also, I really don't want to share my personal one (I use it just for family and friends) but I'm available on the Copperfox G+ account and would love to connect with you there.

Thanks!
Steve

David Amerland
Posted on January 10th 2014 at 1:20PM

Steve, thank you for getting back to this and I love your piece not just because it's validation, G+ is what it is, we all need to have our eyes open as we move forward, regardless, but because it actually takes real guts to come back to a very public post and address it like you did. Kudos. I have circled your page on G+ :) and I will reshare your post there. There is a lot of attention on authenticity, transparency and humanity and this fits right in. Have a great weekend. 

FeldmanCreative
Posted on August 1st 2013 at 8:00PM

Seems like you were simply trying to stir the pot. I hope it doesn't work. You didn't bring anything useful to your story. Digital purgatory? Silliness brother. 

Steve_Martin
Posted on January 10th 2014 at 1:58PM

Hey Barry,

I've been making the rounds today trying to address all the comments on this blog entry. In short, I got it wrong on this topic. The comments on this blog, when I initially posted it, really challenged my thinking, and made me dig deeper. This led me to do a 180 on my "assessment" of Google+. Thanks for not letting me be a lazy thinker. If you have time, please check out my recent post regarding this. http://www.copperfoxmarketing.com/google-plus-works/


Steve

Pia Alves
Posted on August 2nd 2013 at 1:54AM

I really like what you have to say here Steve! It was a great read and you really did quite a good job of bringing to light many of the issues/misconceptions of social media. Thanks for sharing.

Steve_Martin
Posted on August 2nd 2013 at 9:38AM

Thanks for reading Pia.

Mark Traphagen
Posted on August 2nd 2013 at 5:25PM

David Amerland already very eloquently said much of what I would have said in response.

It's hard to know who this post is aimed at, whether "recreational" social media users or to business/marketing users, but if the latter (and that is certainly the audience of Social Media Today), then this post sadly reflects why most social media "experts" miss the boat (and short change their clients) on Google+: they live in a social media silo and don't really understand search marketing.

The key to understanding the incredible marketing power of Google+ is to realize that Google has not designed it as "just another social network." It really can't be compared apples to apples with Facebook, for example. Sure Facebook has much larger numbers of active users, but can your business actually reach a lot of those users? All reports are that it is becoming more and more difficult (unless you're willing to fork over lots of money to Facebook).

With Google+, on the other hand, I've been building effective strategies with my clients that dramatically affect their overall search presence, the ability to show up for more and more people who are actively searching for their product or service, but would never find them on Facebook or Twitter. Because I'm a social media consultant who understands SEO, I know the incredible power of buidling an active Google+ network that sends our ripples of influence and search-boosting power far beyond the posting pages of Google+. 

Steve_Martin
Posted on January 10th 2014 at 12:21PM

Hey Mark,

I took your comment here to heart, and shortly after began exploring G+ in more depth. In short, you are 100% correct in your assessment. This has been a real face-palm moment for me in my digital strategist career. Please take a moment to read http://ow.ly/ssLZK . Thanks for making me better at this.


Steve

JeffreyLapin
Posted on August 2nd 2013 at 6:22PM

Google Plus is different  than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest (the other "major" social networks). Besides the SEO "juice" you get from G+ being a Google product, as noted above, I think Google is trying hard to incorporate the best features of these other networks. Some examples: it is much easier to have a multi-person conversation on G+ than the other networks; Communities are much better than LinkedIn groups; G+ allows the second largest images second only to Pinterest, which really only let's you post images and getting someone to read a post through an Pinterest image is very virtually impossible; Hangouts are by far the best video service within any social network. 

 
Are there things that G+ could do better? Yes but it is really the only company that is still making these changes that benefit the users, not just trying new ways to monetize their network.
 
Everyone (except the people that need to post what they are doing every second, that just want to post pictures of their cats or kids) that I have talked in to trying G+ has liked it and prefers it to the other networks. 
 
All of this does not mean that you should abandon these other sites as they serve different purposes and most businesses target audience uses these other networks.  
 
Google deserves credit in building a very good social network. 
 
Steve_Martin
Posted on January 10th 2014 at 12:15PM

This is a great assessment Jeffrey. My initial entry here just got it wrong. I would love to have a perfect track record, but my initial evaluation just got it wrong. I'm trying to make right on this entry and have posted my rebuff here at http://ow.ly/ssLZK , I'm going to reach out to Social Media Today to see if they can also carry this article as well. I appreciate you pointing out the flaws. It has made me better at what I do.
Respectfully,
Steve

Jason Darrell
Posted on August 2nd 2013 at 6:24PM

Steve, I love how you enthuse in your replies to those who are in agreement with you, but your responses to Mark Traphagen - oh, there isn't one, yet - and David Amberland seem to have you scurrying up a corner for cover.

<blockquote>"Most users, even Google+ fanboys would have a difficult time explaining why Google+ is unique and useful."</blockquote>

Have a problem explaining its usefulness? No.  Could go on for hours (and I probably will).

Explain its usefulness to someone who obviously misses its point completely or really can't be bothered to try it before chastising it (are you a facebook fanboy, Steve?), you're right, it would be extremely difficult.

As a matter of interest, a new community has launched, the <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/112746223685927246056/stream/2c8..."><b>Google+ BUDDY BANK</b></a> - if you'd like me to adopt you, I'll gladly give you the Google+ Tour.

Steve_Martin
Posted on January 10th 2014 at 12:13PM

Hey Jason,
You were right, I was wrong. That's the easiest way to put this. I read your comment as soon as you posted it, and it was one of the primary reasons I dug deeper into G+, and man, you were correct. There's no easy way to share an apology blog, but this is my simple submission. http://ow.ly/ssLZK I'm going to reach out to Social Media Today to see if they can also carry this article as well. Thanks for challenging me to be better.
Respectfully,
Steve

6 one way half a dozen another
Posted on August 3rd 2013 at 8:33PM

The only thing that I have liked so far was your comment about Google+ giving the member complete control over their contributions. The rest is simply a rehash of endless articles already published. The active membership descrepency does need to be noted, but you really don't go any where after that.

I also think that your article is poorly composed. you keep bringing up a point and then drop it before actually exploring it (it's hard to explain why G+ is unique; G+ is cooking the numbers books; G+ should create partnerships *with two of its rivals to its own product, YouTube* ).

And you have completely evaded any acknowledgement of what your actual G+ account is and why you fail to provide it. 

Steve_Martin
Posted on January 10th 2014 at 12:09PM

Ben, 
Your points are valid. I was wrong for the most part of this article. I hate that I got it wrong, but I clearly did. Thanks for challenging me to be better. I'm going through all the comments to try and fix this. Please check out my article today that addresses this specific post. http://ow.ly/ssLZK I'm going to reach out to Social Media Today to see if they can also carry this article as well.
Respectfully,
Steve

Juan Armando Mendoza
Posted on October 2nd 2013 at 5:51AM

I'm very happy with Google and I wan want another service,only you.

Thanks.

AttainDesign
Posted on November 6th 2013 at 10:53AM

Wow haha. People get so protective and/or hateful towards big brands (Google or Apple or Android or Facebook or whoever). I suspect that these angry people don't quite understand the foundations of brand marketing or they'd realise that pouring in all that emotional investment and web content—good or bad—is exactly what Goliath-sized brands want!

If you don't like Google, shut up about Google and start talking about whatever platform is better than Google instead. Otherwise the better platform can't gain as much PR traction (i.e. over the "we [hate/love] Google" content) and therefore grow to eventually replace Google. Every time you bitch to or about Google, you just buy them yet another chance to fix something. You buy them time. Except of course they probably won't fix anything in the absence of a serious competitor (which our bitching is responsible for), so nothing will change for the better. As consumer-publishers we are responsible for the life and death of these brands... so we need to consume and create responsibly!

Even this very comment will add weight to Google's brand presence — Yes, I'm aware of the hypocrisy/irony. But, regretfully, someone needs to say it so that others might realise.

Anyway, I only actually started to comment to offer one small constructive criticism... a pure usability thing. The text is really small on this site and it makes it quite difficult to read. Have a chat with your web designer... 16pt is recommended for <p> tags nowadays although as low as 13pt can still work well. You want text to be easy to read, not a struggle =)

 

mj@socialmediatoday.com
Posted on November 6th 2013 at 11:23AM

Thanks for the feedback!  We'll take the font-size suggestion into consideration.

Steve_Martin
Posted on January 10th 2014 at 12:06PM

Hi Attain,
I'm hijacking your comment to post this, for anyone interested. I got it wrong on this post. I posted today on why that is. http://ow.ly/ssLZK  Thanks for reading!
Steve