News & Views
Google Plus: An underdog story

Google Plus celebrated its first birthday this summer, but it is still a target for scepticism (and often outright scorn) on the social media scene. A year ago, social media pundits were asking if Google’s new venture might end up being the pretender to Facebook’s crown, but that question was soon put to bed and smothered. So one year on, can an oft-mocked network, which was recently described by the technology blog Mashable as having “a reputation as a desolate wasteland”, be of any value to a business?

The site’s creators originally tried to differentiate Google Plus from peers like Facebook and Twitter by giving itself the descriptor “social layer” rather than “social network”, as Google Plus encompasses multiple online sites. But the carefully constructed moniker just wasn’t unique enough, especially in a market where each social media platform offers something different. Facebook is the family and friend oriented industry leader, Twitter is where you go for up-to-the-minute news and opinions, Pinterest and Instagram are visually based and creative, and LinkedIn is professionally focused. Next to these established properties, Google Plus was the new kid on the block with no distinguishing features.

That said, a comeback might still be on the horizon. Mocked it may be, but Google Plus made history in January this year when US President Barack Obama conducted the first ever entirely virtual presidential interview, and broadcast it on the White House Google Plus page. Surely if Barack has faith, we can too?

One strong reason for business owners to hang in there with Google Plus is convenience of integration. Google Plus makes it incredibly easy to include other relevant Google applications (Google Places, Google Maps etc.) in your social media strategy. It is also likely that sustaining a Google Plus presence can have search engine optimisation benefits, particularly if you are a small restaurant or other locally owned business trying to gain data on Google Places.

Another benefit worth considering if you are a larger or corporate business is ease of communication; Google Plus has become a popular and efficient tool for internal messaging within established networks. Gmail and Google Docs enable real time troubleshooting and collaboration among colleagues, and Google Hangouts also offers an informal platform on which to host video conferences, with screen sharing and swapping functionality facilitating group brainstorming exercises in multiple locations.

And while the team at Google Plus may be disheartened for the moment (there are reportedly no immediate plans to grow their team), it would appear that the “social layer” is down but not out. Traffic analytics site ComScore recently estimated that visitors to Google Plus have increased steadily by 66% this year. Perhaps there is still time for Google Plus to figure itself out and take a seat at the “cool table” of social networks.

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