How do you elegantly shut down a service no one really uses anymore?
For small business owners, that's a tough question. You can throw a sadsack party for an aging product line or come up with some fancy new replacement. For Google, the confusing mess known as Google+ has become a bit of a nightmare. First, they announced that the social network was merely being partitioned off a bit. A new product called Google Photos would replace one of the features in the social network that actually worked: Sharing photos with friends for free and storing them in the cloud.
This week, Google made a few more changes. You don't need a Google+ account anymore to make a comment on YouTube, which is making the YouTube stars happy. In a blog post, a rep suggested that you could go ahead and delete your account and not worry about having problems registering for any other Google services. They changed how location sharing worked. It all seems like an admission that Google+ was a public embarrassment and everyone should just keep using Google the way it was before.
I have my own story about how I tried to use the network. I was pretty committed to it for a while, and I've still been posting all along up until just yesterday. I use a social media tool called Sprout Social and you can click a little box to post an update to multiple services including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. It takes about one second to select those networks. I almost pulled the plug recently.
The day of reckoning has finally arrived. I've decided to stop posting to Google+ because I've never seen any real benefits. No one ever says they found my name on the network or read one of my articles there. I haven't even visited my own account in several months. In all of the time I was using the network, and this is from shortly after the launch until yesterday, I've never really made a new connection with anyone or found any useful information. It has served two purposes. It's the place where Google reps post official notices about Google+ and it's fodder for articles like this.
There's a reason to poke holes. It's a curious failure. Google has enough cash in their coffers to turn just about anything into a raging success. I know people who have actually cried during some of their commercials. We are feeding a hungry giant by looking at ads in Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, and countless other services that are useful and practical. (For the record, people complained last time I dissed Google+ that I wasn’t using it correctly, but I’ve used it “correctly” since launch and it never did work for me.)
Google+ isn’t just too technical and confusing. There was something seriously wrong with it all along. It's possible there's a weird dichotomy between "real work" you do by checking email and writing up business plans and then trying to socialize with other people and look at cat photos. I use Facebook for my job just as much as anyone, but I can't say it's anything but a social platform for me. It's mostly for fun. I like chatting with people and sharing links. I never think I will start writing a business plan or track my accounts receivable on Facebook.
The lesson here is this: Stick to what you do best. Google is the utility of the Internet. It's a backbone, and we like backbones. We will gladly look at ads for a backbone. But do we want to share baby photos on a backbone? Do we want to find an investor on a backbone?
Maybe you've found an incredible niche for your business. Maybe you generate sales through Google+ like gangbusters. Maybe you love it. That's great. Many companies generate sales through Facebook. Yet, the reason they generate those sales has much more to do with the fact that people kill time on Facebook (to the tune of what could become 2 billion people soon), not because anyone is using the network for serious business work like managing email or storing all of your business files.
It's the same reason you either by a Ford truck or a Mercedes sedan. One is for hauling lumber you bought at Menard's. One is for taking your legal team to lunch. You don't drive a legal team to lunch in a Ford truck. You don't haul lumber with a Mercedes. Google is absolutely killing it by offering practical tools for real work. Google+ was never that fun. The fact that I'm typing these words in Google Docs on a Chromebook is a testament to how much I like Google. Now I need to go check for baby photos on Facebook. And maybe buy a product from some new hoodie company.