Back in June 2011 Google launched their social platform Google+, to great fanfare. Typically there was immediately the usual jumping of ships and people posting hilariously scalding messages about Facebook on their profile, proclaiming that they would be leaving for the greener pastures of Google and never coming back.
At the time, like many, I was quite dismissive about Google+ going into social media. Whether it was accurate or not, the apparent aspiration to take on Facebook at their own game seemed both foolish and unobtainable to me and I when I took a look at Google’s platform I couldn’t actually see any benefits over and above Facebook. The problem is that I couldn’t see any real attraction for most users and Google’s offering was a regression from the established Facebook functionality.
The most telling thing for these sites though is whether commercial entities try and adopt them or not. Facebook is a nut that many big companies have been trying to crack for years. And they still try, because there is undoubtedly opportunities there for those who approach it in the right way. But what of Google+, how is it fairing nearly 2 years on?
Most significantly it would appear that many of the big corporate names on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest have fallen at the first hurdle with Google+. As eConsultancy write, there seems to be a lot less effort poured into Google+ pages by these big companies. In fact some, McDonald’s being the biggest example, haven’t done anything on their Google page since they created it! So why is this significant? Well my view would be that watching the behaviour of the corporates on these platforms tends to offer a window into the platform itself. No one has really cracked commercial return on investment on social media yet, but the fact that the big names poor effort into some but not offers does indicate which ones they see as being significant players. In the case of Google+ it would seem the consensus is that it is not.
The reality is that we, as users, only have so much time to spend on social sites. The idea that Google+ and Facebook would end up sharing the market was, to be frank, rather rediculous. Facebook’s massive hold on the social market was always going to be a telling factor and most people are simply not interested in the upheaval of moving themselves across to another site when all their friends and content are already on Facebook. The irony for Google is that if there had been a mass agreement in the user base to move then it would likely have shut the doors at Facebook, but as users we like consistency and ease of use – even if we like to moan about Facebook and their adhoc changes. This view would seem to be supported by the fact that all those people who grandly marched off to Google+ never to be seen again have all slowly slunk back, tails between their legs.
Google+ claims to have 500 million users currently, but I wonder how many of those are active on the platform. In the end, my view is that Google’s core business is about data. I don’t believe they were ever stupid enough to think they were going to takeover Facebook’s place in the market, so there must have been another behind moving into the social space. I have nothing to back up this assertion, but imagine how powerful they could be if they had the ability to use personas as yet another way of personalizing search? If they had a way of identifying the type of person you are based on in depth research, through a social media site, then they would be able to sell advertising space that targeted not just search terms and locations, but the type of person as well. Is this why Google+ was created, as a persona research method? Only Google will know the answer to that one.