For some time now, speculation about the demise of Google+ has been mounting, while Google redesigned its features over and over in hopes it would revive the network or soften the blow of its downfall.
And every time it did, we winced just a little bit.
And now this: a completely new focus that's stripped many of the features we've come to know.
Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts
When Google launched its social network in 2011, it had high hopes. It became a part of what Google dubbed "search plus your world," which promised to merge search and social in new ways, integrating more personalized information into the Google search results via Google+.
Many marketers quickly adopted the social network as part of the status quo, and worked to master its intricacies. Years passed and Google+ didn't quite take off how the company probably would have liked.
Sure, they had users. But it was no Facebook. Fast-forward to 2014, and things started going downhill--fast. To recap a partial timeline during the downturn, it looked something like this:
· April 2014: Vic Gundotra--one of the creators and champions of Google+-- announces he is leaving Google. This sparked the fire of rumors as many wondered what the fate of the social network would be without him.
· June 2014: Google+ kills off Authorship--a hallmark feature of the social network that once promised individual publishers more visibility in the search results and attribution of their content--sending shockwaves across the industry. However, I had my suspicions that the real reason they killed it was because it detracted from ad clicks in the search results.
· September 2014: Google+ is no longer mandatory when signing up for a Google account, and that's pretty huge.
· March 2015: Google announces it would split popular Google+ features--photos and streams--into standalone products with Google exec Bradley Horowitz at the helm.
· June 2015: Google pulls recent Google+ posts from its Knowledge Graph cards about brands, which display in the search results with key information about a company.
Despite the fact that in October 2015, Google+ reportedly had nearly 18 percent of adults using the platform, it still has only one-third of the user engagement of Facebook.
So what's the "new and improved" Google+ like? Here's Google's explanation:
"... we've spent a lot of time listening to what people using Google+ had to say. There were two features they kept coming back to: Communities, which now average 1.2 million new joins per day, and Collections, which launched just five months ago and is growing even faster."
So that's basically it - two primary features will rule the social network. Let's look closer at those now.
Logging into Google+ and heading over to the Communities tab will show groups that are recommended for you.
Collections keep users connected to the topics they want to read about. Here's how Wroblewski describes it:
Here's what that looks like:
Going Down with the Ship
Is it worth sticking around? During various points in this Google+ death march, I've warned not too give up too soon, and still evaluate what Google+ brings to the table for your brand before jumping ship.
Sure, there might be value for some brands if they are able to cultivate a following, but at this point, it's safe to say it's every brand for itself. Certainly keeping up with Google's schizophrenic decisions when it comes to Google+ can take up time and resources that just may not be worth it anymore.
But Google remains optimistic. "While this is an exciting new beginning for us, we're definitely not done yet," said Wroblewski. "We got here by listening and learning, and will continue doing so."