If you keep up to date on news in the social media world, you probably saw the headline a few weeks back that Google+ had announced that it would be shutting down.
Some of you might not have been surprised by this turn of event, or some of you might’ve found yourselves trying to remember the last time you even looked at Google+. Some of you might have never even heard of it, and, obviously, you wouldn’t be alone.
In this article, I’m going to explore the reason behind the sudden decision and how the shutdown will affect consumers and your social media marketing agency.
What is Google+ and Why is It Shutting Down?
Google+ was a social media platform that was introduced in 2011 to compete with platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. However, Google+ never quite captured the interest of consumers the way Google had hoped. In fact, it was discovered that 90% of all Google+ sessions lasted less than 5 seconds—definitely not the stats required to compete with the giants of social media.
The final decision to shut down the platform came after the Wall Street Journal reported on October 8th that Google had found and fixed a security flaw back in March 2018 that had compromised the personal data of 500,000 Google+ users.
The EU’s General Data Production Regulation (GDPR) requires companies to inform a supervisory authority of a personal data breach within 72 hours (unless the breach is not likely to risk the rights and freedom of affected users), but Google didn’t mention the problem for months. In fact, Google only admitted to the issue after the Wall Street Journal report came out.
Google did not have a legal obligation to disclose the issue because there was never any record of unauthorized access to or use of customer information, meaning they did not technically experience a data breach.
The reality of the situation is that there was a glitch with a developer API that accidentally gave third-party developers access to private user information such as name, gender, email, etc., but only if those developers had specifically asked for access—of which only 438 developers ever did. There is no evidence that any of those developers exploited the flaw or even knew about it.
The issue brings to mind recent troubles that rival Facebook has been experienced, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal that revealed that data from Facebook users had been misused, and the more recent discovery that a bug allowed hackers access to over 50 million users’ private data.
The REAL Reason: It Is Not What You Think
Some people are questioning the shutdown of Google+ as a PR move for Google to shift negative attention away from the company in light of the security mishap. On the other hand, some believe it was a decision that had actually been made a while ago due to the platform’s poor performance.
Google is no stranger to calling it quits on products that have failed, as they have shut down many businesses in recent years that did not live up to expectations. No matter how successful the company, every organization experiences failure, and Google is no exception. At least 17 products have been introduced by Google and then scrapped because of their failure to perform—for instance, Google Glass, Google Health, and Google Notebook, just to name a few.
The bottom line is, Google+ failed.
If Google+ had been a flourishing platform, then its executives would have simply announced the 500,000-user data exposure as a cost of doing business, and then moved on. As Facebook has proven, a data exposure slip-up is not an insurmountable scandal, so long as your platform is popular enough.
Google+ was introduced to compete more directly with Facebook and all their services, and over the 7 years that the platform was active, it never came close. Google+ just could not attract enough attention or garner enough enthusiasm from users to make it a success.
Not even tying Google+ accounts to other successful Google platforms like YouTube or bundling it with Gmail, or even offering it as their main photo storage service, was enough to earn the platform any kind of loyal following. In the end, the platform didn’t mature or meet the needs of users.
What Small Businesses Need to Know
In announcing that Google+ will be shutting down, Google revealed that it would remain accessible until August 31, 2019. Though Google+ wasn’t the most popular platform, I know that many small businesses still used it as part of their marketing strategy, and there may be some valuable content on your Google+ account that you’d like to salvage.
If you have original posts and images on Google+ that you want to save, Google reps have said that Google will provide instructions in the coming months on how to download and migrate any files that will continue to be of use to you. So keep your eyes on any updates coming from Google.
Additionally, Google plans to continue to offer an enterprise-only version of Google+, though the consumer version is officially toast.
What Small Businesses Should Do
If your brand or small business had a presence on Google+ that you built up over the years, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make the transition off of the platform. Just because Google’s efforts with the platform weren’t a major success, doesn’t mean that your efforts with the platform need to go to waste!
Small businesses should take these five easy steps to prepare for the Google+ shutdown:
- Make a plan to remove Google+ share / follow buttons from your website and blog.
- Plan to phase out social activity on Google+ such as sharing content and commenting.
- If you run a Community on Google+, make plans to migrate it to a different platform—Facebook and LinkedIn Groups are two obvious choices.
- Set up a new group somewhere else and notify members of the transition date so they can move over. People may assume Google+ is shutting down immediately, so don’t wait if you want an orderly transition.
- If you have developed a proprietary software app that works with Google data, become familiar with Google’s new API and data sharing policies.
In the end, Google’s social media attempt to compete with Facebook just couldn’t cut it. Lack of user interest and engagement lead the platform on a slow death spiral, and a security breach was the final nail in the coffin in this social media platform.
To make sure your efforts on the platform don’t go to waste, make sure you migrate all the content you can, and encourage your Google+ followers to connect with you on other platforms!
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