First off, if you read the headline and thought “Well, Duh!” Head over to TSU for a fresh start
Ah Google… Where would the web be without it? Google services have become so entrenched as a part of our daily lives on the net that we almost don’t even notice. On the other side of that, take away or make a major change to any facet of those services and we all run screaming for help or alternatives only to find that there likely are none.
Starting simply enough with the goal of becoming the very best possible on-line search solution via acquisition of every bit of available knowledge, Google scared the hell out of even the most open minded. Fear, public bashing and world-round lawsuits didn’t stop the growth of the fledgling company to the behemoth we know and rely upon today.
It’s been around 15 years and Google as an entity is perched at the top of the search and information food chain. That sounds good to the stockholders, but the cats in the office know that they have some major competitors poised to eat their lunch without a fresh influx of informational ones and zeros. That thought was obviously the main thought which brought about Google Plus — which on the outside is an all-encompassing social network, but those in the interior know it’s all about gathering more information to sell to advertisers. Trying to find a proper balance between other Google services and Plus has been the most difficult of chores.
It’s part of my job to learn about new possibilities and opportunities for musicians and artists, so as soon as I found out about Google Plus, I was there. It took a week of begging friends for an invitation, but yeah, you can call me a “ground-floor-adopter.”
What Plus Got Right:
I first found google to be everything an artist could possibly want for making connections and marketing. It was clean, fresh, full of friendly people who actually talked to each other and every few days a new feature rolled out to make things easier.
Photos look great on Google Plus and the built-in editor and “auto-awesome” were way ahead of Facebook’s. The API made it easy for video embeds and Soundcloud players to play in-stream, and they looked better than on the competitor’s site.
Notifications were easy to handle and the ability to respond to them right in the notification area without leaving the page one is on is still one of the best features of Plus.
Early adopters included a slew of “internet big shots” who actually talked to people and engaged in ways that we never would have expected on Facebook or twitter. This group of bloggers, tech enthusiasts, well-known artists and designers helped the “average user” to feel welcome and to learn. They also seemed to scare away thousands of people who told me things like, “it seems to be a bunch of famous people patting each other on the back.”
Hangouts! If there is a feature of Google Plus that really kicks ass, it’s Hangouts! Done right, hangouts could have truly been a “Facebook killer.” I still use hangouts messaging, video calls, and Hangouts On Air broadcasts every day and they are actually my main source of communication.
Notifications and interaction available on any Google service page. It can be distracting to have social notifications lighting up the corner of a screen while you are typing email or working on your ad-sense campaigns, but you have to admit that being able to respond to querries and socialize without having to open Google Plus is one of the greatest features of the network.
Discovery — with a carefully cultivated group of people and pages in your circles, discovery of news, music and art is much easier than on Twitter or Facebook. There is also the benefit of the long-form post which allows for much more in the area of opinion.
“Communities” — the public ones tend to be spam traps, but the Private Communities… well, they can’t be beat!
Where the Big G screwed the pooch:
Starting with the obvious, Google services were already stacked so deep that adding Plus and a couple hundred more settings to watch made things difficult right off the bat. They told us they wanted to bring all our google stuff together and succeeded in splitting it up even farther.
Menus are a mess! They look nothing like the type of menus that we see elsewere. Settings are almost in-navigable and over a hundred deep. It is almost impossible to tell what settings from Plus may over-ride settings in other Google services and vice-versa. I imagine even the designers of all this are still scratching their heads and wondering what kind of labyrinth they have created. Have a look at your Google Dashboard if you are confused… it won’t help, but you’ll get what I’m saying.
Forced adoption – from the ad campaigns to the buttons in gmail that suddenly appeared asking us to connect a G+ account (which it seemed we had whether we wanted it or not) we all felt “pushed” into something we weren’t sure we needed, much less wanted.
Then came the youtube thing. Yeah, if we wanted to use Hangouts On Air to broadcast, we needed a YouTube Channel and that made sense. But, did you ever try to properly set up your YouTube / Google Plus channel and account? Oh my! What a total failure! It was suddenly quite possible to wind up with two or more channels and pages that you didn’t even realize you were creating and trying to link the right channel to the right page was like catching a greased pig and pinning it to the donkey’s tail.
As if that weren’t enough, suddenly from nowhere the Big Red G decided that all YouTube channels had to have a G+ account attached and if you didn’t have G+ you suddenly did and you were making posts you didn’t even know about. This has been disastrous for most of the musicians I’ve dealt with!
Google Authorship Markup: it should have been huge! It should have worked perfectly. Unfortunately only a handful of people understood it and the implementation really sucked. It might not have been so bad if the instructions had not changed every week. But hey, it gave us social bloggers plenty to write about (until we got sick of keeping up with it). This one really should have been a no-brainer.
“What’s Hot” or “Network Promoted Content” – what’s Crap! That’s all… the same problem on every social network… the bots that promote the crap can’t sort out the junk from what really makes a difference.
Live Beta Testing: Constant updates, changes and tests on a live network have made for confusion on the mass scale. Beta Testing should be done in a control group made of people who want to deal with things that don’t work. Instead Google decide to try something and they “roll it out over the next few weeks” while they figure out whether people like it or whether it even works at all, usually to roll it back in to re-design it from scratch and roll it back out again (Google Photos).
Trying to integrate all the different Google services into one social platform is a lofty idea and a worthy goal, but the dis-integration we’ve seen lately has made that goal more difficult to achieve. Google and Plus would be better off with simplification. For example take Hangouts. We have gmail, google voice, google sms, hangouts messenger, hangouts voice call, hangouts video cal, and hangouts on air. Every darn bit of that could easily be One Service! But no… that would be too easy… no wonder I spend a couple hours teaching every person who finally agrees to try it how to use it!
Lack of unique content: This one falls mostly on the users. It appears that most Google Plus users copy the same post they make on Facebook, share it to all their Facebook friends that use Google Plus and wonder why no one seems interested. Sorry guys, we already saw that one and said all we had to say about it on Facebook. Why should we engage with exactly the same content in another place? In my opinion, this one tactic of users has been more detrimental to the success of Google Plus than any of the messes Google have made.
Perhaps Google’s biggest “failure” with the network is helping people to understand WHY they might want to use it. There is no real incentive. The most common complaint is “But my friends are all on Facebook.” To all but the most savy marketers that one point is the Google Coffin Nail. Even the musicians and artists don’t want to try to reach a “new audience” when that new audience is another group of people trying to sell them a song (see ReverbNation).
So… Here we are…
And… the news keeps rolling… Google splits YouTube off from Plus – yes, you have to go fix all that crap again! Google Looks Poised to Buy Twitter – and yes it looks that way – what a mess that could be! Millions Flocking To New TSU Network – this one could be the Big One!
For those that never really “got it” Google Plus has been dead from the get go. For those willing to stick it out and dig deep, wanting to meet new people, make new connections, work hard to stand out and to create content that gives their Facebook friends and Twitter followers a REASON to follow them over to Plus, it’s still a great thing. For the marketer, the music or art promoter or the advertiser, Plus still seems like someplace they have to be whether they want to or not.
Personally, I haven’t given up on Google Plus. There are people I talk with and work with on Plus that I don’t see any where else. I’ve made connections with certain communities that I won’t willingly give up. The Hangouts On Air have been the single best thing to happen to my music since I joined the internet. The small group of people I talk with are tightly bonded.
So, yes, my engagement drops on plus with every new feature that is supposed to help and with every “Plus Is Dead” article, things slow a little more. BUT for me slow is good! Pushing a new song to millions works for Kanye, but not for the average musician. It’s a Good thing that our groups on Plus are tight!
Many of us totally eschewed Facebook for a long while, favoring the interaction we got on Google Plus. Over recent months though, with each new change and decrease in engagement, I am not alone in saying, “surprisingly my Facebook traffic is going up!” That simple statement should scare the crap out of the G-Giant.
To summarize I don’t see Plus dropping off the radar any time soon and in fact, I would be willing to lay odds that user numbers may shrink, but that those who stay on board will become a stronger and better community for it.
And Meanwhile — Introducing TSU! Oh, you wanna talk about a Google Killer! The “new” (it’s nine months old now) social network that offers a bit of “compensation” for its users has grown to the 4 million user mark faster than any other. It’s ridiculously simple. The settings can be handled on One Page and engagement is rich and fun. If ever an outside source was going to hurt Google Plus, TSU will be the thing.