Another social media platform bites the dust.
Google Plus is shutting down.
Google officially made the announcement on October 8, 2018. Google is calling this move part of “Project Strobe,” an initiative they say is a review of their “philosophy” around third-party data access to the Google API.
Officially, as a result of this review, the social platform will be gone in 10 months’ time – by August 2019. (This timeline from DigiDay details the journey from Google Plus’s birth to its demise.)
R.I.P, G+! 💀
But… What does this mean for us, marketers? What are the nitty-gritty reasons behind the shutdown? What are experts and Google themselves saying about this big announcement?
Google+ is shutting down. @JuliaEMcCoy outlines everything marketers should know about the platform's upcoming demise. #googleplus #ripgoogleplus Click To Tweet
It’s all inside this post, not to mention my own (rather lackluster) experience with the platform. Let’s get into it.
Why Google Plus Is Shutting Down in 2018 (& Going Away in 2019)
According to the blog post announcement we already referenced, there are a few main reasons Google is pulling the plug on Google+.
Read insights on the demise of #GooglePlus, in @JuliaEMcCoy's blog. Featuring experts @mike_allton, @RebekahRadice, @wordstream, and @markwschaefer Click To Tweet
1. Nobody Uses Google Plus!
Google Plus had its devoted user base, but for most of us, it was a non-entity in our online social lives.
From Google’s own mouth, engagement on the platform was pretty abysmal. 90% of user sessions were 5 seconds long or less.
The only engaged audience Google+ found was with businesses and marketers, as this post by Mike Allton of The Social Media Hat explains.
The business audience valued it for these reasons:
- It’s lack of ads
- Its uncluttered format
- Its communication and discussion tools
- Most importantly: its power for combining social media with SEO
One digital marketer, Rebekah Radice, is quoted as saying that the platform was a “relationship marketer’s dream.”
“It became a major player in my social media and SEO strategy.” – Digital marketer Rebekah Radice via The Social Media Hat
Unfortunately, this value was not a universal experience. Most casual users on social media want to stay connected with family and friend groups. For those purposes, Google Plus failed spectacularly.
On that note, my own business experience with Google Plus was pretty mixed.
I had a volunteer, non-paid position helping moderate a group on Google+ in the six-figure range. I never found that group to be engaged or of real value, though. It was 100% spammed most of the time with outsourced providers trying to sell backlinks.
(Can you say S-P-A-M?)
The only real value was with Authorship at the beginning of Google Plus, where you could link your published content with a type of digital signature tying back to your account. Here’s an example via Search Engine Land:
People actually called Express Writers from Google’s search results because they saw my picture in the SERPs, saw that I was a writer, and instantly thought we were more trustworthy – definitely an interesting and valuable side effect.
Authorship was the only real value at the beginning of Google Plus, but it didn't last long. This and more insights by @JuliaEMcCoy on Google+ shutting down #googleplus #ripgoogleplus Click To Tweet
That said, Authorship didn’t last long. In short, it interfered with AdWords revenue and Google didn’t like that. Not surprising, given Google’s reputation for randomly pulling the plug on various services/tools. An infographic from WordStream illustrates this perfectly:
Head over to WordStream to see the entire list of abandoned, dead projects in Google’s graveyard.
2. Google Found an Undisclosed Bug Related to Data Privacy in March 2018
In their blog announcement, Google buried a little piece of information: They discovered a “bug” in one of their Google+ APIs.
The New York Times reported on this bug, which Google kept quiet for 7 months. Why the silence for so long? Because it didn’t look like anyone had exploited it to gain access to users’ information. Hence, Google decided they weren’t obligated to report it under the current laws. Even GDPR wasn’t in effect yet when the bug was discovered.
Either way, the search giant cites this bug as one of the many reasons for Google Plus shutting down in 2018: With such low user numbers, the effort to fix it and maintain the platform wouldn’t be worth it.
What Can We Learn from Google Plus Shutting Down in 2018?
Mark Schaefer wrote a great, pointed post about Google Plus shutting down in 2018.
He unequivocally calls it as he sees it: a failure.
No mincing of words here. Love it!
Along with this spot-on pronouncement, Mark walks us through a few lessons we can learn as marketers from this shutdown.
1. Google never solved a unique problem with Google Plus. The platform did what Facebook did, but everyone had established themselves on FB way before Google came along to challenge it. Google Plus didn’t really offer anything mind-blowing to make up the difference, either. There was no reason to leave FB.
2. They never gave people a reason to connect emotionally. Digital natives and tech trend-setters were never inspired to switch.
What’s the link between these two lessons?
That one factor that makes a brand, platform, product, or service different from every other option out there: the content differentiation factor.
Google+ is going away in 2019? What can content marketers learn from this shutdown? @JuliaEMcCoy shares her thoughts in this new post #googleplus #ripgoogleplus #contentmarketing Click To Tweet
Google Plus had nothing totally unique to offer users. It was an alternative to Facebook that none of your friends were using, or it was a nice business tool if you knew how to leverage it.
Those things were not nearly enough to matter. It equivocates to one giant, halfhearted shrug. This is a great takeaway for all marketers.
Don’t follow in Google Plus’s footsteps. Lean into your uniqueness and invest in it! 🦄