Rumors are often built on tiny pieces of truth that get distorted to something that is totally false. I believe that is what is happening here. I do not believe Google+ is going anywhere. Google's own Larry Page pretty much said as much in response to Gundotra's departure announcement, “we'll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever increasing number of Google+ fans.”
David Amerland does a great job showing how TechCrunch, the publisher of the article that started the “rumor”, has a history of anti-Google+ rhetoric. The author of this latest TechCrunch article hasn't even publicly posted to Google+ in over two years. When you haven't used a product in over two years, how can you personally report on it with any authority? I get the impression TechCrunch doesn't even know what Google+ is.
So what is Google+?
It is not another Facebook. It was never intended to be another social network. Google+ goes far beyond being just another social network. To complicate the matter, there are too many people who still think “social media” is just a bunch of apps or websites with networking features. I believe Google understands that the web is one huge social network. And that is where they are taking their company.
So what is Google+? It is the future of Google. It is a search engine plus everything else.
With all that said, there have been bumps along the way in the rollout of Google+ features across Google's products and services. These bumps have often been the reason for so many people disliking Google+. For whatever reason, many people feel they are being forced to use Google+. Ironically, many of these same people have had no problems with being required to use Facebook or Twitter to log into many unrelated websites.
With a changing of the guard usually comes some retrospect and contemplation. A good leader likes to get a better feel for what he is going to be doing. That is probably the reason why I recently received a survey from Google's usability team asking about Google+. It is highly unlikely that a corporation like Google would waste time sending out a survey on a product they had already decided should be buried.
I thought I would share a few of the questions from the survey with everyone. Although I've not listed them all here, each of these questions had options from which to choose answers except three open ended questions at the end. So here we go…
1) In the past 30 days, how often have you used these apps or services?
2) How satisfied are you with these apps or services?
3) Overall, how satisfied are you with Google+?
4) What do you use Google+ for?
5) Who do you connect with on Google+?
6) Which parts of Google+ do you use?
7) If you were no longer able to use Google+, how many others would notice?
8) How likely are you to recommend Google+ to a friend?
9) If you were no longer able to use Google+, what would be the impact on you?
10) How well do you understand how to use Google+?
11) On which devices do you access Google+?
12) Which most closely describes how you access Google+?
And then there are the three open-ended questions. I would be very curious to know how everyone else would answer these three questions. I've listed my own answers/thoughts to these to help spur some of your thoughts.
In your own words… How would you describe Google+ to a friend?
I would describe Google+ to the average acquaintance as a simpler and friendlier version of Facebook without ads. To a client however, I would describe Google+ as a way for Google to better associate you or your organization as the owner of all your content.
In your own words… What do you like best about Google+?
The simplicity of Google+ as compared to other platforms is one of the best features. But beyond that, the idea of authorship, telling Google what you own or created, is by far at the top of my list. Oh, and I would say that Google's news feed algorithm is so much better than Facebook's. For clients though, the integration with Google's personalized search results has to be right up at the top of the list.
In your own words… What do you find frustrating or unappealing about Google+?
Easily my biggest frustration with Google+ is not being able to have multiple Google Accounts all hooked into 1 single Google+ profile. Not only is it frustrating from a work versus personal account situation, it is also extremely frustrating when helping clients.
Other than a few demographic and miscellaneous questions, that was the extent of the survey.
There are some hard, self-reflecting questions in that survey, but I don't see Google+ going anywhere. It has become the backbone and foundation of the company in so many areas and represents how they view the web. In a few years, most people won't even recognize or remember a Google without Google+.
What I do believe will be gone (or perhaps it is already) is good journalism. I've probably never seen so many websites that like to think of themselves as important news sites regurgitate this same story without verifying any of the opinions in the original article.
But the question always comes back to this: “Why should I expand my social footprint and put time into Google+ when I can already reach many more people on Facebook?”
I suggest the question is based on a false foundation. Remember, Google+ is not just another Facebook clone. Google+ is search plus you and everyone you know. Facebook even realizes that the future of social goes beyond their website facebook.com. They've branched out into several other areas with recent acquisitions as well as new styles of ads and marketing that go beyond their own website. But Google is one step ahead of them and is blessed with the ultimate reach of web search.
Google+ debuted nearly three years ago.
As one carefully looks over everything that has happened during that time, one can easily see that Google+ is not a traditional social network. And one can quickly see that ignoring Google+ in your social strategy will probably hurt you sooner than you think. It's probably hurting your online efforts already, especially in your organic search results. How? I am glad you asked.
One of the most controversial areas of Google+ integration has been with YouTube, especially the comment integration. But in the long run, I think this has been a big bonus to YouTube. The Page's integration with YouTube was also messy, but once one gets it all figured out and solved, the end result is a huge plus to companies and brands.
With a verified Google+ page that is integrated with a YouTube channel, a brand can now relax in knowing that Google understands that these videos on YouTube, your social posts on Google+, and the content on your website are all owned by the same entity. And they could all come up in a search result for your company or brand name.
Taking the integration feature one step further, any links you share in your verified Page can also suggest to Google that you own those pages as well. So if you put your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profile/page URLs in your Google+ Page Profile, you are giving Google that extra piece of info it needs to help searchers find your content faster when they do a search.
“But I can advertise on Facebook. I can't do that on Google+.” True, but why?
Facebook has made changes to its organic newsfeed algorithm, and most Facebook Pages have seen a significant drop in views and engagement with each post. As a result, many have had to resort to boosting or advertising those same posts to reach the same people they use to reach.
Google takes this a step further. You can advertise your Google+ Posts to virtually the entire Internet. Why only reach those people you should already be reaching, when you can advertise to everyone that matches your target audience across any number of websites.
“But the media says no one is using Google+. They just signed up, circled a few people and then never go back.” Recent data and surveys would say this is not true.
But even if it was true, with Google+ you can still reach the people that have circled you when they do searches on Google. Google gives personalized search results to every single logged in person that does a search. So even if everyone followed you and then left, never to return to their Google+ newsfeeds, they could still potentially see your content when performing searches related to your recent posts on Google+. Josh Cline does a great job talking about how Google+ affects organic personalized search results. I suggest everyone read it.
So what is the future of Google+? Only Google knows, but from everything actual Google employees are agreeing to, it's not shutting down, thousands of employees are not moving away, and things are continuing to grow. You should probably jump on the bandwagon before your competitors leave you in the dust.