The Deadzone: Why Google+ is deadby
Five years ago Google took, what then looked like a momentous decision to take on Facebook’s dominance of the world of social media for the fourth time, by launching Google+ to the general public.
Back in 2011, it needs to be remembered that the burgeoning social network space had already become dominated by Facebook which had a huge head start on Google thanks to its massive users numbers. Despite this tough environment, Google+ was dubbed a ‘Facebook Killer’ and a reported 20 million people signed up within three weeks of its launch, which boded very well for the platform’s future.
However, the verdict is clearly in five years later. Whatever curiosity it stirred at its launch in 2011, its times to shine has clearly passed, with the number of users continuing to steadily decline with just a paltry 0.26% market share recorded in 2014, dropping to just 0.09% in 2016. This year’s drop in market share is despite Google seeking to reinvent the network late last year.
Where did it go wrong?
From its inception it sought to be the ‘swiss army knife’ platform of choice for social media users, by integrating the myriad of services Google provides into this new platform including a photo and video editing suite, a news discovery site, and a finally messaging and video chat platform. This strict policy of integration, especially for services such as YouTube and Gmail, proved to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for adoption amongst a wider audience of users. This policy forced everyone with a Google email address to create a profile, which was heavily criticised by Gmail users who simply did not want join another networking platform.
In addition to this, another of Google+’s biggest problems has always been a lack of user engagement, as users rarely shared content on their profiles, with only 9% of users actively posted content last year. By contrast, 510 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded every 60 seconds on Facebook.
What is most puzzling about Google+ is that despite the rise in popularity of online video (even back in 2011), it never sought to make this content central to its online experience to differentiate it from Twitter or Facebook. Placing YouTube (which it owns), the most popular video network with over a billion users worldwide, at the forefront of its content strategy, would have been an easy way for Google to set its social network apart from others in the early days.
Today, it’s no question that video is the most critical content for any social network, proven by the fact that consumers watch more than five hours of video per day. This growth in popularity is expected to continue to skyrocket with predictions that video traffic will be 82% of all Internet traffic by 2020. by 2017. The ship has sadly sailed on Google+’s opportunity to solely own this space, but in 2011, it could have been quite different.
Let’s take a moment to note the positive outcomes of Google+, mainly the introduction of two very successful and popular Google products: Hangouts, its video and audio communication tool and Google Photos, its picture and video sharing tool. But even with those success marks, last year’s reinvention of Google+ felt like the final nail in the coffin of its ambitions to overtake Facebook as a social network with the shift to a siloed approach and energies geared towards developing the individual products further.
Google+ as we knew it back in 2011 and its lofty ambitions to overtake Facebook from its social network throne may have long since been forgotten by some, but knowing Google and their proven capability of moving industries forward, there’s more to come. And personally, I can’t wait.