google mobile user interface update

Analysing The Google+ Update – Should Your Business Bother?

Let’s give them a little credit, Google are really trying to make Plus work. It seems that every few months, we see a new update to their social network, a new move that will knock Facebook of its perch. But it never works. This is their latest attempt. We’re going to go over the new features and figure out whether the network is worth your business’s time.

When Google+ first started, it was a requirement for anyone with a Google account. No one used it, Plus was that annoying profile you had to create if you used YouTube. Then Google changed their mind, Plus was no longer a requirement. We still didn’t like it. Now Google have changed Plus to focus on Communities and Collections, in addition to improving the mobile functionality of the network.

Google+ Communities

Communities, one of the two features that the new Google+ update is now centred on. This is not a new feature. It was first announced in December 2012, allowing users to join groups based on shared interests. According to the blog post revealing the latest update, Google+ users join 1.2 million communities per day. They seem to be a popular feature, but they’re also unoriginal. Forums populated the internet, even in its earliest years. More recently, we’ve seen the rise of Reddit, a simple to use service that allows users to subscribe to categories they’re interested in, known as subreddits.

google communities update

Isn’t it nice when we all work together?

The biggest problem that Google have faced with Plus is getting people to use it. No one wanted to use it because none of their friends were on it. This move seems to be a solution. Working with the fact that your friends aren’t on Plus, the service is now based around making new friends. Communities allow us to talk to people with shared interests, this makes sense right?

Well, not really. The problem is Reddit. It got there first. They’ve created a platform that allows users to chat and keep up to date with the latest news about all their interests. The best subreddits are highly populated, with dedicated users that keep adding new posts. Google+ doesn’t have dedicated users. It’s a ghost town.

Based on the sheer number of accounts, Google+ is the most popular social network in the world. At the start of 2015, Google+ had around 2.2 billion users, that’s twice Facebook’s user base. At the start of 2015, Edward Morbius published data on the amount of users who actually used the service. Here are the key stats:

  • There are about 2.2 billion G+ profiles total.
  • Of these, about 9% have any publicly-posted content.
  • Of those, about 37% have as their most recent activity a YouTube comment, another 8% profile photo changes (45% of all “active” profiles).
  • Only 6% of profiles which have ever been publicly active have any post activity in 2015 (18 days so far).

Google+ is empty. It can’t facilitate the community atmosphere that Reddit has because no one is posting, if no one is posting no one will use it.

Communities has one advantage over Reddit. As a hangover of trying to take on Facebook, Google+ users are named, often with a profile picture. Reddit is anonymous, no one publishes with their real name. Communities will allow you to build influence as a business, unlike Reddit. Your name will be more prominent, with more focus on B2C and B2B than Reddit could ever provide.

Google+ Collections

Collections were released on 4th May, 2015. Like Communities, Collections are not new. The following is from the Google post announcing Collections:

“Every collection is a focused set of posts on a particular topic, providing an easy way for you to organize all the things you’re into. Each collection can be shared publicly, privately, or with a custom set of people. Once you create your first collection, your profile will display a new tab where other people can find and follow your collections.”

So, Pinterest?

google featured collections update

A set of featured collections from Google+. Patagonia looks cool.

Collections don’t serve a new purpose, there is no niche in the market filled by this function. If anything, image sharing networks are a saturated market. Instagram, backed by Facebook, are part of the mainstream. Pinterest is well used, with the service set to grow following its improved online shopping platform. Snapchat are Tumblr are reaching beyond their teenage users, being embraced by companies across the globe. Hell, even Imgur has a dedicated user base, helped by Reddit integration. Would a potential user choose Google+ Collections over any of those established networks?

Improving the mobile user experience

Regular visitors to the Digital Media Team blog will know how much we love user experience. Collections and Communities are the headline announcements (despite being old features) but the improved mobile experience is what matters. Facebook’s incredible growth was based on mobile integration. 9 out of 10 users now access the social network on mobile and ¾ of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from mobile users. Google are late to the party. We get a slight impression that they’re pinning their hopes on improved mobile UX, considering this update is built around two old features.

Bizarrely, this is from Google, the guys that remove your site from mobile search results if it isn’t integrated. This is a great move for Google+, but it’s so late. Mobile use is the basis of all social media networks; this announcement should be dated 2011. If Google+ can facilitate a great B2B and B2C community that can be accessed on a phone, we’ll be interested. We’ll be keeping our eye on the mobile usage stats for Google+.

Is Google+ right for my business?

Right now, the network still needs work. It needs to fill a niche. Potentially, Google+ could be the top business discussion board. This will only work if Google+ can deal with spam. Take a look at the Content Marketing subreddit and you’ll see a hideous den of spam, no one commenting, no one subscribing, no one visiting. LinkedIn groups work well for B2B, but aren’t too good for consumer contact.

reddit content marketing

If you’re posting Content Marketing tips on Reddit, don’t write Content Marketing tips

Google+ could work well for both, IF it can attract users. Hopefully improved mobile functionality will bring more active users to the service. For businesses that share a lot of online content, Google+ might be worth a gamble. Get on early, before the service is full of spam or full of other companies.

Test the waters, but avoid committing too much time to the service. As it stands, Facebook does B2C better, LinkedIn does B2B better, Pinterest does Collections better and Reddit does Communities better. With the financial backing of Google, Google+ could eventually flourish. Just not yet.

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