Google+: What Will Survive the Impending Onslaught?May 21, 2014
This post was written by Stephen Vujevich, Social Media Account Executive
As rumors swirl about the future of Google+, the misguided product linking platform with a social spin, it’s tough to sort through the clutter and focus on the important questions that could affect how many businesses manage their social media efforts. What will happen to the best parts of Google+ if Google decides to scrap the project? How will its possible demise impact Google’s ability to customize and rank client content? Will Google win the Affinity Data arms race or will Facebook’s simplistic approach eat their lunch?
How can I still leverage the platform for personal and professional use?
Those questions are what PR professionals should be contemplating in the coming months. Mainstream acceptance of the Google+ platform has fallen flat, and the product has failed in two key areas: its value proposition to consumers and its overall ease of use. Combine this with a “If you build it, they will come” philosophy and well…here we are. Despite these issues, Google+ boasts an impressive roster of functions that just might be spun off into their own promising standalone applications. This isn’t a far-fetched idea by any means, considering Google’s recent launch of a unique iOS and Android applications for Docs and Sheets with more on the way.
We know that Google can effectively communicate the simplicity of their products in an easy to understand manner, just consider Google Chrome’s Now Everywhere campaign. So how did they fumble the rollout of their social media flagship product? Did they simply miss the grace period for rough social network product introduction? Did they just take too long to polish the UI to acceptable levels? Should they just shift their focus entirely to mobile? We might never know.
What we do know, is that despite the failings of the parent platform, Google+ has spawned several key features that can be easily molded to fit a nimble and more focused Google in the future. Which features might live on? Here are my top picks for the parts that will live to fight another day:
- Hangouts: This one is a given. While off to a slow start, the Google Chat/Voice replacement service has been growing in recent months with minor additions like GIF support and integrated VOIP calls to the native apps on Android and iOS. If a reported billion dollar deal by Google for streaming network Twitch comes to fruition, we could see Hangouts not only improve the quality of their streaming service, but also expand at a rapid pace due to demand from millennials.
- Photo Sharing/Editing: When Google purchased Nik Software and their Snapseed suite, you could almost feel Flickr shudder. Since then, the advanced photo platform has been combined with the bones of Picasa and upgraded with Auto-Awesome features. But without the everyday user needing to log into the Google+ stream, these features are wasted. Still, browser-based editing is one area where Google could outperform Facebook and Yahoo. Snapseed provides quality editing options and if Google can pair this power in some creative way with Hangouts, we might just have a viable WhatsApp/Instagram competitor on our hands.
- Sign-In with Google: In my opinion, the very core principle behind Google+ was to be able to better collect, organize and aggregate as much customizable data to improve Google’s ad targeting. Sign-In with Google is a direct rival to Facebook’s one click account creation and management system. But, recent reports suggest that Google might nix the Google+ related branding while maintaining the only true competitor to Facebook’s immense data collection add-on. But I really don’t see Google killing off one of the main ways Google connects your dots.
Image Credit: Google
- Helpouts: I love the concept, but I think it needs a little more support from the folks in Mountain View. It got off to a great start and it could be a worthy Bambuser-esque version of TaskRabbit, but along with other Google side-projects, it’s lost in a jungle of other services. Do any of your clients use Helpouts?
- Location Sharing: Google Now Cards are heavily dependent on location sharing data to help provide a customized experience (a la iGoogle). Since location provides the context that Google needs to serve higher quality search results and ads, it’s not going anywhere. Similar to Swarm, look for this feature to mesh further with Google Now or Google Maps and serve you a “nearby friends” card.
- +1 Button: This is the game changer. When Google started customizing search results for every logged-in user, they dug a rabbit hole that will be nearly impossible to fill. Custom search results that improve as you use Google services? That’s a win for everyone. But if Google+ shuts down, how will they supplement this feature? Will they look to mend ties with Twitter or attempt to sour the marriage between Bing and Facebook? Only time will tell.
Surely this is the death knell for Google+ right? Not quite yet. Google seems intent on staying the course for the foreseeable future and I’m sure there are a few great features ready to deploy under the guidance of recently appointed project manager Dave Besbris. But for now we will watch, wait and hope for a positive outcome.