Google+ Splits Into Separate Services: The Final Nail in the Coffin?
It's commonly accepted that Google+ is nowhere near as successful a social network as Facebook or Twitter, despite having respectable user numbers. At the same time, Content Customs often argues that Google+ is a worthwhile platform for businesses; not only to gain exposure in a fashion similar to being on other social networks, but also for SEO advantages.
Now, even those benefits might be waning. With Google+ splitting up into separate services, it's unclear if the platform will remain advantageous for brands.
Google+ Splitting Into "Streams" and "Photos"
Announced, perhaps ironically, in a Google+ post, two existing features of Google+ - Photos and Streams - can now be considered standalone products. It's unclear at this point how this separation will affect the Google+ platform itself. As has been noted by several journalists, new Google+ lead Bradley Horowitz didn't even use the name "Google+" in his announcement. While that certainly doesn't bode well, many people are stating that an actual product named "Google+" is unlikely to disappear completely. At the same time, there could be many significant changes coming.
As of now, it's thought that Streams will contain a social feed similar to updates typically found in a user's Google+ stream. Photos, already a popular element of Google+, will be a standalone app that backs up your photos using Google drive. Separating these features from Google+ isn't exactly unprecedented, as Google has already removed Hangouts from Google+ and made it its own app.
Signs of Trouble
Several events began occurring last year that seemed to signal trouble with the social network. While Google+ has never been able to truly compete with Facebook, many people didn't start predicting an actual demise until Google started taking actions that hinted at a fledgling future. They included:
- April 2014: One of the original creators and biggest champions of Google+, Vic Gundotra, leaves the company.
- July 2014: Google announces that Google+ profile names no longer have to be real, leading to speculation that Google needed to relax its policy to keep Google+ afloat.
- July 2014: Google makes Hangouts a standalone app as opposed to a feature of Google+.
- August 2014: Google's Authorship feature, a huge incentive for content creators to use the social network, comes to an end.
- September 2014: Users are no longer required to sign up for Google+ when creating a Google Account.
- January 2015: While not an action by Google, one blogger reports that Google could be seriously exaggerating the number of active users on Google+.
What Does This Mean For You?
But here's the big question: why does any of this even matter? Well, for diehard fans of Google+ as it is now, this news could be disheartening. As much as people want to call Google+ a ghost town, there are indeed millions of people that enjoy using the network. Also, as the Wall Street Journal points out, Google+ has been very helpful for Google as a business. It's encouraged the creation of millions of Google Accounts and has helped people discover and begin using other Google services.
For marketers, this change simply means that brands will have to continue rolling with the punches. Separate Photos and Streams apps may actually present new opportunities for content marketing, especially marketing based around images. But it could also mean that marketers would be better off focusing more of their time on other approaches that have more receptive audiences and are more likely to produce results. At the same time, the potential SEO advantages of using the network, as well as the integration with Google My Business, seem to be beneficial enough to at least maintain a profile on whatever Google+ becomes.