New Coke. The Pinto. Betamax. Google+.

Perhaps it’s a little harsh to place Google+ in the pantheon of all time epic commercial busts. It is still available, unlike New Coke. It was never recalled, unlike the Pinto. And the technology isn’t deficient unlike the Betamax. But Google+ does share one huge trait with these other notorious failures: the execution. Google+ may not have been recalled like the Pinto but it did burst into flames upon impact.

Google+ was Google’s fourth attempt to build a Social Network. Following the oddly titled Orkut in 2004, Google Friend Connect in 2008 and Google Buzz in 2010. The platform launched in 2011 with its eyes on Facebook and becoming the go-to Social Media destination.

 

Google looked at Facebook and Twitter and thought, “me too”.

 

Google saw that Facebook was monopolizing more and more of user’s time and was growing more rapidly than any other site. They thought they could build a platform that would give Zuckerberg’s brainchild a run for its money. And why wouldn’t they think that? Google has an estimated 500 million people connected via Youtube and through Gmail. Why not package a Social Media channel to work in conjunction with these other platforms?

One problem with Google+ is that it arrived too late to the party. People had already spent years on Facebook building and curating their digital identity. The platform itself also failed to offer anything new. There were no perceived improvements over Facebook, Twitter, or any social media platform. Even if there were world changing advancements in Google+ any innovation on Google’s part wouldn’t last long enough to sustain the platform long term. Facebook could easily adapt those Google+ improvements to keep up and to retain their users.

 

How many users are active on Google+? However many employees Google has. 

 

Sure, even to this day Google boasts that Plus has more than 540 million users. But that number is inflated given the fact that you have to set up a Google+ account in order to use Gmail and Youtube. A recent study by Stone Temple Consulting discovered that 90% of profiles have never had a single post.

There was an old joke that my digital marketing buddies and I used to enjoy. “How many people are active on Google+? However many people work for Google.” Turns out, that jab didn’t land too far from the truth. In 2011, Larry Page, Google CEO directly tied employee bonuses to the success of Google+. Which meant that its users and champions weren’t there out of natural enthusiasm for the product, they were there to make a quick buck. The online world values authenticity above all else. People saw through Google’s ploys and rejected not only the platform but the efforts to expand it.

 

 I can count the number of interactions and notifications I have received from Google+ on one hand. And that number is zero.

 

Google+ still has its champions. They’ll argue that platform has been improved and that it is more intuitive than its competitor. They’ll say Facebook and its design are old hat. But Facebook has become a part of our lives and of the modern zeitgeist. By the time Google+ launched Facebook had already been around for 7 years. Most people had nearly a decade worth of photos, friends, posts, and memories tied up in Facebook. Facebook was the home of their digital identity. It would take an act of God to move people off Facebook in serious numbers.

I have been working in social media and digital marketing since before the Google+ launch. I have posted to a number of Google+ accounts at the request of clients and I can count the number of interactions and notification emails I have received from Google+ on one hand. And that number is zero.


I remember a day not too long ago that I knew the Google+ experiment had officially died a quiet death. I was reading an article on ESPN.com and at the very top of the page there was a listing of how many times the article had been shared and on which social media platform. Facebook listed more than 40,000 shares. Twitter was about half that, 20,000. And the number of times shared on Google+? 57. Call the time and bag the body. 

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- Michael Dennis, Digital Strategist & Content Creator