future-of-google-plusHere’s the continuation of the article written by Eric Enge about the key factors that will determine the future of Google+. Read on.

Arguments people make for Google+

6. Google+ is Google

This is something that those who are passionate about Google+ like to say, but I think they would be better off if they stopped saying it.

The basis of the argument is that Google+ was the driver for creating unified logins and social profiles across all Google products, as well as the +1 button.

However, they can eliminate Google+, the social platform, at this point and keep the login requirement, user profiles, and +1 buttons.

7. New features keep on coming

The Google+ team has released new features in the past year, such as Google+ polls, Google My Business, view counts, page insights, major Android and iPhone app upgrades, and more.

Clearly, they are still investing in it. On the other hand, none of these are revolutionary features. Google+ feels much like a “me too” type of network, and this is one of its great weak points.

8. The Google+ team is growing

While Besbris also did not reveal the number of employees working on Google+, he did say this about the size of the team: “We’re the largest we’ve ever been.”

However, it’s not entirely clear what they’re doing. It seems like a small number of features have been released in the last year, compared to the supposed size of the Google+ team.

Could they be working on the next generation of G+? A real possibility, in my mind.

In fact, on January 10, Medium released this interview with Demis Hassabis on some of the investments that Google is making in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Hassabis co-founded DeepMind, a company that was bought by Google for $400 million. Here is what he had to say:

In six months to a year’s time we’ll start seeing some aspects of what we’re doing embedded in Google Plus, natural language and maybe some recommendation systems.

9. Having hundreds of millions of active user profiles is gold

This is one of the huge payoffs of Google+. Even if people only periodically +1 a piece of content, that’s huge for Google because it’s data.

People who diss Google+ for its lack of monetization are not getting the significance of this single aspect of the network (see the next point).

The number of users they have is the reason why I think Google will choose to build on their current base, instead of starting something new from scratch.

10. Personalization is a big deal

Building on the prior point, this is clearly very important to Google. The personalization aspects of Google+ are significant. Note that Mark Traphagen suggests that as many as 60 percent of all searchers conduct their searches while logged in.

If you are not familiar with personalization, you can read some of the basics of how it works here.

The short explanation is that Google can use information it learns about you through your use of Google+ to tailor search results for you to more closely meet your preferences. Google learns about your preferences when you click a +1 button on a website or give a +1 to a Google+ post.

Now here is the key point: this makes Google+ a source of revenue for Google. How? Personalization allows for more targeted ads and a higher click-through rate as a result.

How much do they make because of this? We don’t know, but my bet is that this nets them more than enough to pay for the engineering team working on G+.

Personalization also increases user satisfaction with Google’s search results and helps increase ad revenues.

To present one example of this, you can read about page-load time tests done by Google and Bing here. These tests showed how even small changes in usability impacted actual levels of usage of the search engines.

The bottom line for Google

So what about all the media people questioning Google+?

They have every right to do so, and I do think many of their criticisms are on point. Google+ is not a true success as is.

It’s a network that most people don’t know exists, that many other people choose to avoid, and that even has ex-employees who write scathing commentaries about how they messed it up (warning: lots of four-letter words in this article).

I don’t think Google’s social network is where they want it be. However, I don’t think stating “Google+ is dead” forms the right conclusion either.

Here are the four main points that statement overlooks:

1. Surrender is not an option

Google is hungry for as many sources of data about people as they can get, and social media activity is one great way to do that.

2. Google+ is a component of a larger social media strategy

There are many out there who consider Google a failure in social media.

While Google certainly failed to properly pursue Buzz, Orkut, and Wave, they own YouTube, the world’s largest video-sharing platform — so that puts that assertion to rest right there.

And, Google+ does have a major audience that it can build on.

The Hangout and photo-sharing capabilities really rock. Even if they are partially unbundled, these may potentially do quite well on their own. That’s not a failure; it’s a starting point.

3. Google+ creates some revenue for Google right now

I made this point above, but it bears repeating. Personalized search is not just for organic search — it results in better ad targeting, too.

Google’s ads have high click-through rates, which drive incremental revenue.

4. What are Google’s options if Google+ is a failure?

If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the social network is a failure, Google has three main options:

  1. Start over. That’s a problematic strategy, because they will be even further behind where they are now.
  2. Buy a major competitor. Unfortunately, there is no viable competitor for them to buy. I do believe that they will buy other social media sites, but the purpose of the purchases will be to fill holes in a broader social media strategy.
  3. Build on what they have. As Besbris noted in his recent interview, they have hundreds of millions of users, and that makes a great starting place for any long-term strategy in social.

They’re in it for the long haul

So here is where I am at with this: Google is not going to let go for a better grip. They are likely contemplating major changes to Google+.

For further proof, see the Medium article I reference above. They are certainly working on features they think can end up having many hundreds of millions of users.

They clearly recognize that G+ is not a success in its current form. They need to offer large-scale differentiation, and they have not done so yet.

However, I believe that they will use the current Google+ as the platform on which they build these features, in one manner or another.

When Dave Besbris says, “We’re here for the long haul,” you can put that in the bank.

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