Although Google+ has some virtues, on the whole it would be a burden lifted to not have to think about including it in the social media mix.
As big of a fan as I am of many of Google's products - Android, Search, Gmail, Drive - I have yet to wrap my arms around Google+. It's always been a bit of an encumbrance, partially because I was never sure what purpose it was intended to serve, and because, until recently, the social media management tool I use religiously didn't support it.
So when I learned that Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president of all things Google+, was leaving, it aroused more than just a little curiosity. TechCrunch's blatant referral to Google+ as "walking dead" aroused even more.
Could Gundotra's departure spell the end of Google's latest social networking experiment, or is it because Google+ hasn't gained a foothold that he chose to leave?
TechCrunch revealed the following:
Google+ would no longer be a product, but a platform, essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
That's not a bad thing. Nike has decided to forgo the hardware business in favor of Fuelband becoming a software platform. Similarly, Netflix quit licking stamps and became a digital media delivery platform.
In Google's case, however, it remains to be seen what becoming a "platform" means.
The 1,000-plus members of the Google+ team are being shuffled to other product areas, mainly Android.
I'm no mathematician, but in my book 1+1 still equals 2. Taking away the Google+ head honcho and stripping its product development team inevitably leads one to conclude that, if Google+ is not dead, it is, as TechCrunch suggests, "walking dead."
2 Reasons for Google+ Demise
However, if Google+ is to follow other of Google's social media experiments to the graveyard, it's doing so for two reasons:
1. Few People Use It.
Arguably, lots of people use it - 540 million according to Google's figures. Well, not "it" in the sense of the social network itself, but many other products and services associated with it that Google has encouraged (if not required) membership in Google+ to use - YouTube being chief among them.
Many have attempted to use it. The growth rate early on was the fastest any social network had experienced up to that point. Yet, its close resemblance to Facebook left many of us wondering why Google would take such a duplicative approach.
2. Google+ Has an Identity Problem.
Google could never explain to me in a manner that I clearly understood what Google+ was supposed to be. I know that Facebook is a social network designed for personal use, LinkedIn is a business social network, and Twitter is a news and information network. As such, I can post content that properly fits the context of each. It appeared that Google+ attempted to be all things to all people and that lack of a defined purpose has been responsible, in part, for its downfall.
To complicate matters even more, Gundotra said that Google+ wasn't a social network at all, but a "social layer" that was the "next version" of Google.
The dictionary defines a social network as "a dedicated website or other application that enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, images, etc."
Whatever else it may be, in light of that definition, Google+ is a social network.
Google's inability to clearly explain either what Google+ is or the unique purpose it is designed to serve is, in my view, the reason most people don't use it. "Why do I need Google+ when I have Facebook?" is a question I've heard often, and it's a valid one.
I don't know what will become of Google+. I admire its virtues, especially the ability to increase SERPs for content associated with Authorship. On the whole, though, not having to think about including it in the social media mix is a burden lifted.
What are your thoughts about the future of Google+? Is it of concern or, like me, would you be just as glad to see it go?
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Paul Chaney is principal of Chaney Marketing Group, a boutique agency that provides integrated online marketing solutions built on the concept that quality, optimized content framed within the proper context drives sales conversions.
He is a freelance writer, popular speaker, and author of four books on the topics of business blogging, social media, and social commerce. His latest is "The Social Commerce Handbook: 20 Secrets for Turning Social Media into Social Sales," published by McGraw-Hill.
Paul sits on the board of advisors for the Women's Wisdom Network, the Social Media Marketing Institute, SmartBrief on Social Media, and MyVenturePad.com.
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