Marketers Say Google+ Breakup Has Little Effect for Them

Mar 20, 2015

Article ImageIn early March, Google announced its was breaking its Google+ social media platform into two separate products, Photos and Streams. Social media and digital marketers weren't surprised, many experts in that field say. "The effect of the breakup is it's making real what people have been talking about for a while, the lack of passion amongst the masses," said Lee Odden, chief executive officer at TopRank marketing, a digital marketing agency.

"In terms of social media marketing, Google+ is not and hasn't been the place to be," he added.

Many social media and digital marketers have been expecting the news of the Google+ breakup in light of lackluster adoption rates. Google stopped providing statistics about the number of Google+ users, but it had more than 300 million active users one year ago, which is about a billion fewer users than Facebook, according to a CNN Money report

Marketers feel Google has not been strongly supporting the platform for quite awhile. As a result, marketers have not been relying too strongly on that marketing channel for quite awhile, says Steve Farnsworth, a demand generation content marketing strategist at the content marketing agency @Steveology Group, and he runs the Steveology blog. 

"I don't think this breakup will affect social media marketers," he adds.

Jason Keath, chief executive officer at Social Fresh, which runs an annual digital marketing conference, says attendees have not asked for a Google+ seminar in at least two years.

"Google has insisted Google+ isn't dying. But those of us looking can see the numbers," Keath says. While Google+ did have benefits that separated it from other social media experiences-such as photo sharing and Google Hangout, which could take the place of web meetings for many users-no one feature was particularly useful or used by social media and digital marketers, says Joel Comm. Comm is author of the books The AdSense Code, which offers Google Adsense strategies, Twitter Code, and KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays.

Those who have found success on the platform are using it in a different way than Facebook is used for digital marketing, say Comm. Rather than using it as a more traditional social marketing medium, they're sharing their photographs in the photo area and perhaps marketing their photographs or photography business in that way, Comm says.

"I think they're keeping Photos for obvious reasons." Comm added. "And Streams is where people still post and interact. If they take away Streams, what will happen to the discussion around the photos? I think Streams is Google's last attempt to try to keep the platform as a social network."

In its nearly four years of life, Google+ has not demonstrated a value proposition to differentiate it from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Keath says. Each of those platforms offers elements that users find uniquely useful. And each caters to a segment of users. LinkedIn is the network for professionals while Instagram is used to share photos of pets or special desserts. Users share personal updates on Facebook, and Twitters bills itself as the microblogging platform.

"SnapChat, the newcomer, is more ephemeral and playful and is mobile and media focused," Keath says. "But with Google+ you can't point to too many things. Photos is breaking out but there's not enough interest or users otherwise to sustain having a social network."

Google+ didn't turn out to be bigger than Facebook, but Farnsworth doesn't expect a social media platform to beat Facebook's numbers for quite awhile. Though niche players like SnapChat will continue to encroach on Facebook's space in the social media marketplace, he says.

Comm agreed. The nonindie nature of Google as a business, which needed its Google+ to show rapid adoption to meet business goals, held the company's social media platform back, he says.

"Brilliant ideas need time to be organically adopted and large companies don't have that kind of interest if an idea doesn't scale for them," Comm says.

The Photos and Streams services could actually grow, however, he added, and social media and digital marketers are keeping their eyes on those channels. After all, in this quickly changing social media milieu, they can't completely turn their backs to any potential player, whether newcomer or long established.