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Is Google Plus Dead On Arrival?

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It opened its beta testing doors to great fanfare in June of last year, and it immediately became the “in-place” to be, online. All the cool kids were there, King Robert Scoble was holding court to a captivated audience as usual, and everyone was willing to sell their grandmother for an invitation.  Your online reputation was being judged by your presence there (or lack thereof).  Users ooohed and aaahed over the various features on offer including Hangouts and Circles.

Everyone speculated wildly that this would be the deciding deadly weapon to finish off the wild beast that roamed the Interwebs, called Facebook.  After all, it had a monumental new idea called Circles which was the atom bomb of social networks! A seismic shift in online social power was being invisioned with everyone flocking to this new place, while the vanquished Facebook smouldered in the burning ruins of its once mighty global empire.

Yes, this was Google Plus, socializing online and being delusional like it was 2011.

Fast forward to 2012.  The initial “Facebook is dead!” celebrations are over.  The bunting and balloons are fluttering pathetically in the wind.  The ravenous Facebook monster continues its wild Interwebs rampage unchecked.  All of the cool kids have more or less lost interest in Google Plus and gone off on another quest to find the Internet’s “Next Big Thing”.

So where does this leave Google Plus?  Does it have a future?  Or is it something which is essentially dead on arrival but Google insists on being in denial, constantly giving Plus CPR, hoping it will revive and come bouncing back?

Here are the arguments for and against Plus’s future survival :

FOR : your Google search results will be influenced by your Plus activity – if you are a blogger, writer, or someone who relies on SEO in order to stay at the top of Google search results, then an active Plus presence is almost required.  At the very least, you should have a completed profile, with links to your online work.  Increasingly, your visibility on Google is determined by your Plus activity.  Blog posts won’t be linked to you as your own unless you claim ownership of the site in your Plus profile.  The more sites and pages you claim ownership of, the more you will receive credit for (along with a picture of you next to the blog post).  This is great for your online exposure and marks you down as a serious online writer / blogger / marketer.

AGAINST: many people are simply getting bored and walking away – there seems to be a syndrome on the Internet where people get hysterically excited about a new site, stay on it for a while and rave to everyone about how they should come join too.  Then the drugs eventually wear off, they come down off their high, and they move onto the Next Big Thing, leaving said website a ghost town.  This, I believe, is what is happening to Google Plus.  Facebook is becoming stronger, everyone’s friends and family are on Facebook, and Google has been unable so far to persuade people that Google Plus is much better.

Games?  Sorry, Facebook got there first.  Circles?  Sorry, Facebook already allows users to add their friends into special lists. Photo syncing?  Sorry, Facebook does that now. Hangouts is really the only main feature that anyone will stick around for.  But it is currently buggy as hell and constantly drops people who are trying to chat.

FOR: Google is adding lots of goodies to Plus – although some of the ideas are not exactly unique in nature, they are still quite nice to have around, and seeing Google actively working on Plus, it shows they have no intention of winding down the feature anytime soon.  The latest one is Communities, which allows users to create a free community, based on their interests.  So check out the Star Wars community, the official Google Plus community, and the Android community to name but three.

But the problem of spam and inappropriate material is already surfacing in Communities.  Porn-type communities are prominent and there seems to be no way (yet) to effectively combat the spam issue.

AGAINST: Facebook is just too powerful to overcome and Twitter is also gaining a foothold – when Plus first launched, people wondered aloud if this was the “Facebook killer” everyone had been waiting for.  It’s rather amusing and ironic how everyone prays for something to come along and kill a site which everyone is on, likes, and is using.  That’s like wiring your house to explode and then locking yourself in the bathroom.  Why do people, secretly deep down, wish ill on a website that they obviously like using?  Is it what the Germans call “schadenfreude“?  The delight in seeing someone or something suffer?

Anyway, whatever it is, it isn’t going to happen.  I have a $50 bet with a friend that Facebook will be gone within 2 years ( I bet it will stay, while she bet the opposite) and I am very confident I will win that bet.  Facebook is so embedded into the structure, fabric and mindset of the Internet that it is impossible to dislodge it.  Everyone and their grandmother are on Facebook.  Everyone’s photos, videos, status updates and lists are on Facebook.  No-one has the time, energy and inclination to start again on another social network.  They are more likely to stay put on Facebook.  And Facebook knows that, which is why Mark Z isn’t losing any sleep over what Google is offering.

FOR: Google is now basing their entire user interface and other products around Plus – if you use Gmail, you will see that you can now add email contacts directly to your Plus circles.  If you want to share a YouTube video, you can embed it directly on Plus with the click of a button.  In Google Reader, a couple of clicks adds a post to Plus.  The design and feel of all Google products are being changed to match Plus so everything looks integrated. Google is obviously hoping that this will entice people into Plus and make it easier for them to start using the service.  And it might – to a point.  But not enough to cause a mass exodus from other social networks and turn Plus around (in my opinion).

So now it’s time for your opinions.  Do you think Google Plus is terminally ill?  Do you think Google should turn off the life support machine?  Or do you take the opposite view that Google Plus is ticking along quite nicely thank you very much?  Let us know what side you come down on in the comments below.

  • Mark Traphagen

    As soon as I see one of these articles state the false belief that Google+ needs to “kill” Facebook to be a success, I know I am dealing with someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and need to read no further.

    Besides your lack of understanding about why Google created Google+, Google+ now has 130 million active monthly users and growing rapidly, which means it will soon overtake Twitter in active users. When will I see your “Twitter is dying” article?

  • http://dustn.tv/ Dustin W. Stout

    I’d have to agree with @f2251e2befe665516c44788fdc3ccbc5:disqus – seem’s like the author is just a little bit out of his element here. Sad really– with so many credentials in his “About the Author” section, it would seem he is over his head in this area.

  • http://twitter.com/BlueKarl Karl Mamer

    I think Google Plus hangouts are certainly keeping it treading water. Google is starting to offer some SEO advantages for posting to Google Plus as well. And hang in for the long term. If Android becomes your new desktop (think dockable phones that replace your laptop), G+ will no double be built into your Android desktop.

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  • Josh

    Umm….’active’ as defined by what metric. If every Android user adds Plus to their gmail account, intentionally or otherwise – google is getting pushy about this, I’d wager that the plus account is checked every time a user wakes their phone.

    Big numbers don’t mean much when it comes to contrary user perception. Most people in my circles have posted nothing since late 2011. That matches anecdotal evidence gleaned from others with whom I’ve discussed the matter.

  • Marcus Sant’Anna

    The author just don’t use the platform and don’t understand what is G+. I wonder how a called social media blogger have soo plainny flat arguments to debunk a 18 months service. 

  • http://twitter.com/MarkONeill Mark O’Neill

    I would have to dispute your assessment of my article, and also dispute your opinion of my ability to write such an article.

    I did not say specifically that Google Plus was dead.  I gave clear signs that it could survive (the “for’s”) and clear signs that it might not survive (“against”).  I simply gave the fors and againsts, to allow the reader to make up their own mind.  

    I have no axe to grind with Google+ and indeed I use it often for things like Hangouts and to read what posts are there.  

    I also didn’t say that Google+ needed to kill Facebook to be a success.  I was merely quoting the general consensus across the web, when Google+ was started, that it was a “Facebook killer” and now it isn’t.  

    And I would highly dispute your assessment that Google+ has “130 million active monthly users”.  People are more or less herded into Plus when they create a Google account / Gmail account so the total number of accounts may not reflect the actual number of people using the service. There might be a bit of creative math going on there at Google HQ.

    And you won’t see my “Twitter is dying” article because Twitter is not dying.  I only deal in facts.

  • http://twitter.com/MarkONeill Mark O’Neill

    Well that is your opinion and you are entitled to it.  I of course disagree, having worked in this area for many years.  See my reply above to Mark for more rebuttals.

  • http://twitter.com/MarkONeill Mark O’Neill

    On the contrary Marcus, I do use the platform occasionally and I do understand G+.  I also understand when I see a social network with not much social going on.

  • http://twitter.com/MarkONeill Mark O’Neill

    I agree that Hangouts are the one major feature that is keeping G+ going in the long term.  And of course the SEO advantages too, which Google favours when deciding which page results make it to the coveted first page.

  • http://dustn.tv/ Dustin W. Stout

    In this case, your years of experience may be the reason why your analysis is off. I don’t mean to be rude, but your conclusions are clearly flawed. I’ve written my own rebuttal geared towards all “Google+ Ghost Town” or “Google+ Failure” articles here: http://dustn.ws/UBYbEc. 

    I’m sure you’re a swell guy, Mark, and you’ve undoubtedly got great wisdom in the digital world. Some of the conclusions you’ve drawn and points you made in this article though are short sighted and lacking the insight that your credentials might lead one to expect. 

  • Masked Bassist

    I agree with the author completely. I have tried to use Google+ as a social platform but it hasn’t worked out…no one is interested. Its a desert out there. My friends don’t bother posting anything or giving +1’s…Facebook seems to be far superior… 

    Furthermore, Google+ is linked to your Gmail and Google drive etc. So when you log onto your Gmail you are essentially logging onto that too. Nope. It doesn’t stop there. Your YOUTUBE account is linked to your Gmail, and thus your Plus account making the ‘active’ users a quite debatable fact. For example, to change your display picture on Youtube, you have to change it on Google Plus first. So yes, the author is correct. Google is pulling out all the stops in trying to herd people into Plus, but is it actually working as a social medium? No. 

    And I no longer use Facebook. Just FYI, if you have the assumption that I i’m being biased or whatnot. I’ve used both and to be honest, Facebook is much stronger. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ECBVI3PAJFFR2PLBK24LHAGNHI VaVaVoom

    As soon as I see some one who starts with “as soon as I see etc. I read no further” and then spew his stupidity, I immediately assume he is a delusional moron and read no further. ;)

    Google plus is very possibly dying because I hardly use it compared to facebook. I know a number of friends who “abandoned” their fb account to move to G+, only to crawl back to fb about 6 months later. Why? Cuz ain’t nobody is commenting on dem G+ walls. Nobody gives a shet about what’s cool. Nobody gives a shet about wannabe-smartash morons like you, mark. 

  • Clarifier.

     Mark O – here’s whats missing from this discussion, and what Mark T was really getting at: Google Plus isn’t supposed to replace facebook.  Facebook will always be for friends and family.  Google Plus is for your interests.  This is why Mark T said that Facebook doesn’t have to fail for Google Plus to succeed.  Google Plus is doing something new.  Its not an apples to apples comparison.  That is why he said he feels you aren’t understanding the purpose of Google Plus.  Google Plus isn’t for posting pictures of your new puppy, or what you ate for dinner last night.  Its for participating in communities and special interests on topics that are of interest to you.  Meeting others, and having access to those who are leaders in those topics or industries.  Small group feel.  Photography interests you?  Cancer is of concern to you?  etc…  If Google Plus catches on, it will be for this reason.  In a sense, its a hybrid of Myspace and Facebook.  MySpace was supposed to be Special Interest – Music only.  It became a Social network too, and Facebook filled that need.  Now we’ve got a broad spectrum special interest tool which also offers social networking.  The real question here is simple:  Will the fairly simple minded masses get that, and begin to participate.  The answer?  As soon as 3 friends of theirs say “Give it a try” they will.  And the mass exodus (or rather mass inclusion) to Google Plus will begin.  Keep something else in mind – Facebook is going to get “OLD”.  People may already have a place to post their pictures, but if they like the quick, sexy, interesting interface of Google plus enough, theyll have no problem posting new pics there instead.  Everyone likes to feel like they’re moving up.  Advancing.  Changing for the better.  If this site offers that “sensation” … it could succeed. 

  • Lelax

    Thank you for this informative article. The pro/con format helped me a lot.  Recently, it seems that Google is pushing those of us who have long-standing YouTube channels to link to G+.  In some popups from Google, we are asked to change our channel name, to something else, it’s unclear what.  This move from G set off the alarm bells. I’ve “owned” a YouTube channel for many years (Mathview) and worked very hard on it’s content.  Now they what me to change the name, or something.  Unsettling behavior by Google, the “don’t be evil” company. 

  • Lelax

    Based on this review of Google Plus, I went ahead and created a G+ account.  Now I have a stream of silly pictures and Movie Star fan chat, .   I give G+ a B- which is like two stars.

  • adilvellani

    It’s clear the people who are defending G+ live in a tech bubble. With ZERO experience, one can conclude that the average person who does social just doesn’t give a hoot about G+. So what if all the bloggers are using G+ to promote their blogs/sites/products? You don’t need to be an expert to realize that G+ doesn’t interest a good majority of the people on social.

    As for G+ not being meant to kill Facebook – well, let’s hope Google will add that “Like” button to it’s search results and show some love to Facebook. I am willing to bet with a FB Like button alongside the +1 button in search, most everyone will use the Like button and ignore the +1 button. Google has made it painfully clear that it doesn’t like Facebook taking anything away from it.

    Just because it’s Google, doesn’t mean G+ is succeeding.

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  • Alexei

    I don’t have time, energy or inclination to start on ANY “social network”, especially facebook.

  • Chris Buckley

    At the time this article was posted I might have agreed with you, however ask me now and I have quite a different opinion.

    I run a very popular blog at http://www.onedirection.net, and as expected we have a very active social media community. Our Facebook and Twitter pages have a lot more followers (which is obvious as they’ve been around longer), but our Google+ page is fast catching up. From its creation last October we now have over 46,000 followers (or +1’s, whatever google want to call it).

    Even though we have more likes on Facebook (136,000), we’re actually noticing a lot more interaction on our Google Plus page, and sometimes we’ll see certain posts we make on our page get a lot more love on G+ – for example take a look at this page http://www.onedirection.net/rock-me-to-be-release-as-new-single-on-june-4th-video-rumours/ – quite a lot more +1’s against the FB and Twitters numbers!

    We think the increased interaction over our FB page might be due to the fact that FB users typically have hundreds of pages that they like, so we’re always fighting for exposure on their news feed. In all honesty, we’re seeing declining interaction on FB from last summer. Our likes aren’t increasing as fast as they were, and there seems to be fewer comments on each of our posts.

    The way that our G+ page is growing, we quite expect it to be one of the most important parts of our traffic generators by the end of the year, so we’re working even harder to increase our numbers and make our page a worthy destination.

  • Jeddy Khan

    Google+ and Facebook share the same terms of service which is disgusting. Facebook is learning that its users have ceased to be the kids, who want to play scrabble. Those kids have grown since Facebook started and their interests are in politics, sex and most importantly porn. Google- adopted Facebook’s ageing terms of service and thought it would be nice. Of course people tell me to go to an adult forum or go to a politics forum etc. Internet porn precedes both Facebook and Google+. Both these social networking are trying to censor porn and specific political ideas. People complaining that their posts vanishing, because they are against the Community Standards. Those are not community standards they censorship directives. Some people believe they outsourced censorship. I really might as well share my porn on some other websites.

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