The writing has been on the wall as Google+ has gradually phased out features, but the discontinuation of mandatory G+ integration with other Google services is perhaps the most telling move yet.
Google+ is dying. What's your exit strategy?
Google has made it mandatory for new users of any of its services--Gmail, YouTube, etc.--to also sign up for a Google+ account during the account creation process since 2012. You want a Gmail account? Well, welcome to Google+! Of course, you didn't have to use it, but it was there, with the red notifications in the browser bar everywhere you went across Google services.
The recent change to kill this mandatory Google account creation wasn't announced. However, when I noticed it, I asked Google about it. An official spokesperson confirmed to me via email, stating: "We updated the signup experience in early September. Users can now create a public profile during signup, or later, if and when they share public content for the first time (like a restaurant review, YouTube video or Google+ post)."
It's the latest in a series of moves that have gradually lessened the need for users to engage in or even use Google+. Vic Gundotra, the biggest internal champion of Google+, left the company in April. By June, Google had killed the authorship program and in July, made Google Hangouts available to non-members. By August, Bloomberg reported that Google was planning to separate its photo service from Google+.
Google is notoriously secretive with its user numbers, but each of these actions moved it closer to, not further away, from becoming the ghost town it didn't want to be just a year ago. There's not much point in sinking time into a network that seems to be taking its last, feeble gasps.
So what's your plan?
Has it been a while since you looked critically at your social strategy? Crunch the numbers and determine if it makes more sense to allocate your budget and efforts elsewhere. It could mean a reduction in your efforts, or you might want to phase it out entirely, but you have to investigate its value for your company.
The time to point people to your more active network is now, before they're gone. Better yet, get them on your email list and into your own ecosystem so you can stay in front of them. Use Google+ posts and the about section to link to the web properties you plan to continue with more actively.
If you haven't already, inventory your Google+ content and see if it can be repurposed and put to use elsewhere.
Social networking only works for brands insofar as they have an audience and are driving results for the business. This is a good time to evaluate Google+ as one of your networks, but try to regularly evaluate all of your networks.
Audience engagement and interests change and as much as we'd all like to think we're right on top of constantly monitoring and measuring, things do slip through the cracks!
If your Google+ presence is still strong, enjoy it while it lasts. However, definitely keep looking ahead to the day Google's constant deprioritization of the social network leaves it in the Google graveyard. Plan your exit now!