2013 was a tough year for Google+.
A couple of big Google+ Hangouts by American politicians did little to spur on popularity for the network, and Google’s revamp of the YouTube comment system (which now requires a Google+ account)caused outrage and frustration among web users everywhere.
Despite the potential promise of Google+ for Hangout-a-Thons, which use Hangouts to bring people together for philanthropy, there aren’t many other upsides at the moment. For Google+, 2013 was largely yet another year of irrelevance. And to that, we have to ask–will 2014 be any different?
Going into the rest of 2014, all of the factors that made last year a flop for Google+ seem set to continue to work against it.
As it stands, Google+ is suffering from an identity crisis. It has lots of features, and a decent number of users, but no one really knows what to do with it. From Hangouts toAutoAwesome to HelpOuts, there are a lot of features on the network that seem very cool. But very cool doesn’t get you users–or at least, not long-lasting ones. Utility and actual function are what gets you users, and that’s what’s harder to pinpoint with Google+.
Going through the rest of the big social media networks, it’s much easier to name a specific user group (or at least function). Twitter is very useful for news, and is popular with journalists. Facebook is much more emotional, and these days, is home to a lot of moms (the same goes for Pinterest). LinkedIn is for professionals, SnapChat is popular with younger people who like privacy, and Instagram is the platform for sharing photos.
Google+, though? That’s less clear.
The data suggests that Google+ is the place to be for engineers. Nearly a third of people who self-identify as IT workers use Google+. There’s a possibility that engineers and IT professionals recognize the utility of the platform as a backdoor to Google’s search results, which other ‘normal’ users are less likely to care about. Even so, nowhere does Google proclaim that Google+ is an engineer’s hangout, or that ‘X is why you should be using our product.’
And that’s the thing–there’s no value proposition. There’s no clear reason why users should migrate to Google+ from Facebook or Twitter (or even continue to use them simultaneously). Even if the social network does have a lot of value for brands looking for information about their users, it has to offer something to those users in return–and right now, it doesn’t do that. It’s trying to be so many things at once that it’s failing to be useful at all.
Until Google starts being more clear about what it wants Google+ to be, it’s not going to see an increase in popularity. It’s going to continue to be irrelevant, much like it was all throughout 2013.
Could it theoretically come clean about what it wants to be and see a spike by the end of 2014? Sure–but if things keep going the way they have been, I don’t expect that to change any time soon. So if you ask me, no, 2014 won’t be the year for Google+. And 2015 won’t either unless things really turn around.
Image credit: CC by Sean MacEntee