As students of mine will testify, I’m not a big fan of Facebook as a social media tool. Quite simply the core functionality of Facebook doesn’t do enough to provide value and it has simply become another paid platform with great targeting options. Yes I know there are exceptions to the rule and many businesses are happy and have had good success with the service they receive but think of this, for every success story, how many stale facebook pages exist and ask yourself how much traffic is really driven to your site? If you also examine the vast majority of the success stories, you will find many involve a heavy use of apps, additional social media tools and money in order to achieve this success.
The impact of the breakup of Google+
I’ve long looked to Google+ as the best alternative to Facebook and the truth is that I really like the platform. Not just because it has the entire enemy of my enemy factor going for it but because I think it actually works quite well.
The integration of Google+ Business Pages and Places provides for strong performing Google Local results which gives massive SEO boosts to businesses on a SERP. The Google Circles format also works quite well in providing the user with better customised control over who they post to and how they can stream or view the content from friends and pages.
However, as much as I admire the platform, this admiration can’t disguise the fact that Google+ quite simply is a ghost town (particularly in certain regions) and is ultimately failing in its efforts to convince people to start use the platform.
Why did nobody switch over to use Google+?
So if it is such a good tool, then why did nobody or at least the masses not switch over and use it? Was it because they were happy on Facebook? Not according to the many surveys which have recorded a phenomenon known as Facebook Fatigue over the last 2 years. Facebook Fatigue has seen steady drops in the number of times Facebook users log in and spend on the site. 61% of users in one research study have taken multi week breaks from the platform. The reasons are listed below.
Last January, Time Magazine published a study which showed more than 11 million American users under the age of 25 have left the platform with the brand now becoming associated with parents and even grandparents.
So we can see there are a lot of people unhappy with Facebook. So why didn’t they switch to Google+? Well maybe they are just bored of all social media? Not quite, the boredom extends only towards conventional social media with tools such as Snap Chat, Whats App and other app based products on mobiles growing dramatically during this same period.
Let’s park these discussions for a moment and look at businesses. Are they happy and getting value from the organic and free functionality that Facebook provides? The answer here again is no. The well published and discussed Oglivy research highlights the declining reach of Facebook organic posts. A trend they call Facebook Zero. The net conclusion of this study was that if we want our message to be seen, we have to pay. So Facebook is an advertising platform and it’s capacity to generate Earned Media requires at least an initial paid launch.
So businesses aren’t happy with Facebook and consumers aren’t as happy with Facebook. Yet despite all of this, Google+ failed to capture a dissatisfied market when there clearly was an opportunity. So why did they fail? Maybe people just don’t change social media platforms? Well we know this isn’t true either, as we seen the mass migration of the established Bebo to Facebook over 10 years ago now.
So what was is the answer and is it too late for Google+ to be salvaged?
In my capacity as a lecturer, I’ve been in a position now where I’ve trained close to a 1,000 people over the last 3 years in digital marketing. When it came to studying Google+, the majority of initial attitudes towards the tool start negatively but eventually become more positive after being trained in how to simply just use Google+. While the numbers of students with familiarity with the interface is growing, for me it was always a bad sign that students needed to be trained in how to simply use the tool – meaning it wasn’t as intuitive or easy to pick up as other social networks.
Google+ was trying to be all things to everyone – a combination of Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Instagram. The interface at first glance can look slightly overwhelming and I think this was a large part of the problem. The decision to split the platform therefore makes excellent sense and should make it easier for people to at least trial the tools.
Another problem, was alluded to above. The younger generation prefer cooler tools and apps such as Snap Chat, What’s App and Vine etc Google Streams which will be the social media segment of the new Google+ will need to compete in this mobile space and attract in the younger users if it is to succeed.
In my opinion though the biggest reason why Google+ has failed so far is simply this….Google didn’t engage in enough traditional marketing. While this might be a funny statement to make for a digital marketing lecturer and practitioner, the entire platform could have benefited from sponsorship, television advertising and promotions. Particularly outside of the States, where there was very little momentum. Google as per their company policy don’t list phone numbers or make it easy to contact. The irony of all of the social media networks is that for all their products and services do for connecting people and improving communication, the companies themselves largely cut themselves off from feedback and local businesses who want to do anything other than pay to advertise on their sites etc.
In fact that could have been a strategy for Google+. Chuck a lot of free Google Advertising credit which is conditional on a strong Google+ presence. This could have gone a long way towards getting more businesses on to the platform and through promotions and competitions, these businesses could have attracted more users to the site. Quite simply though, for all of the buzz of it’s launch and initial momentum, Google+ was easy to miss and therefore easy to forget about.
So is it too late for the tool? Absolutely not but Bradley Horowitz the new head of the project has a lot of work to do