On April 2st Google finally shut down its social media service, but if you didn’t notice it’s completely understandable. It is no surprise that Google+ was not doing well, out of all the major social media services Google+ was probably the worst performing. However in its death Google+ can still teach us about social media and people.
The Creation of Google+
Google+ was actually Google’s fourth attempt to make it in the social network business. Its first attempt was “Orkut” then “Google Friend Connect” which was followed by “Google Buzz.” Google+ launched in 2011 and it made quite a splash, on June 2011 the demand to join the new social network skyrocketed. However Google decided to set up an “invitation only” system. Through this system people could only join if they were invited by an existing user and each user was limited to 150 invites. This lasted up until September of the same year when Google decided to make its service available to everyone
During the first to weeks of launch Google+ had 10 million users, by the end of 2011 the number had grown to 40 million users. At the beginning Google decided to integrating Google+ to its other services such as Gmail. Google has also implemented a “real name policy” which forced users to use their real names over pseudonyms and nicknames. They also started deleting business and brand name accounts randomly asking them to wait for their “business pages” feature. In the following year estimates showed that Google+ users averaged 3.3 minutes on the site compared to Facebook users 7.7 hours per day. In 2013 the average user time of Google’s social network service had only grown to 7 minutes.
Why Did Google+ Fail?
I believe there are 3 major reasons why Google+ failed. The first is tying Google+ to other Google services. Have you ever tried creating a Gmail account? If you have you know that first you had to create a Google+ account and then connect your Gmail account to it even if you had no intention of using Google+. This creates a “ghost town” effect where there are many profiles but there is no activity.
The second reason is also because of Google’s integration of Google+ to other services but for different reasons. When Google enforced its “real name” policy they deleted accounts that did not comply with this rule. However this also meant that everything else connected to Google+ was deleted because many of Google’s other services were integrated with Google+.
The third reason is because they started deleting accounts of name brands an businesses indiscriminately. Some business accounts were deleted almost immediately while others seemed to continue growing. At some point Google even told businesses to stop making new accounts and wait for their new business pages feature. This was a huge mistake because brands carry a huge amount of followers and influence.
Ultimately I feel that Google+ during its first year thrived because people were attracted to something new and shiny. The implementation of an invite only systems invoked feelings of exclusivity among its users. However when Google started deleting accounts of users without real names and big name brands this caused many people to become dissatisfied with Google+. Since Facebook and Twitter were already established social media giants people could simply go back to their Facebook and Twitter accounts.