What Google+ Changes Mean for Marketers

With last week’s announcement of Google re-organizing Google+ and putting Bradley Horowitz, Google VP of product in charge of Google Photos and Streams products, you may be asking yourself, “Is Google+ dead?”, or “How should I adjust my strategy as a result of these Google+ changes?”.


Let’s first examine the announcements that have been made, and then evaluate what you need to know.

Google+ Announcements

The major announcement is that Google+ is splitting the social network into different focus areas, however specific plans or details have not been released on what this will exactly look like.  In an interview at Mobile World Congress, Google’s Senior Vice President of Products, Sundar Pichai, gave an overview of these changes in an interview with Forbes where he noted, “I think increasingly you’ll see us focus on communications, photos, and the Google+ Stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area.”

As part of the “communications” area, Pichai was asked about the future of Hangouts and if these will exist as an individual product.  Pichai responded, “We’re seeing good traction there and so we’ll work hard to get to the next stage.”

What Brands Need To Do

It’s easy for marketers to see these announcements and chalk this up to another one of Google’s failed attempts at social networking.  This would be a short-sighted view based on a number of factors, which I’ll get to soon.

First, brands need to know three things in the immediate future:

  1. Google hasn’t rolled out these changes yet
  2. Brands should keep their current Google+ strategy in the meantime because streams aren’t going away.  Given most brands syndicate re-purposed content, this should continue for the time being.
  3. Brands should stay tuned for updates, specifically keeping an eye on the Google I/O event on May 28-29 where there may be more announcements

I know this advice seems simplistic, but Google has the ability to radically change the space in the near future and any other moves would be based on pure speculation.   In this case, it’s best to stay aware and ready for changes, with the understanding there will likely be more implications in the near future.

What Marketers Need To Know

Along with staying in tune with updates from Google, marketers need to understand the larger trends at play with this update.

Trend: Social Networks are Fragmenting

Remember when Facebook broke off it’s messaging application from its social network?  Remember when Foursquare split into two applications?

These moves are strategic and are where social networking is headed.  We’ve had years of the mega networks like MySpace and Facebook consolidating services and becoming “social destinations”.  As social and mobile intertwine and change how we communicate, these services are naturally fragmenting and splintering into applications that are more straightforward and easy to use on mobile devices.  The fragmentation of Google+ isn’t an indication of the social network dying as much as it is observing the changes in the space and adapting to those changes.

Trend: Google’s Portfolio of Services is Strong

Owning the Android market positions Google as a strong player in photo sharing and mobile. Android Police recently uncovered that the Google Drive team may be releasing updates that would enable Google Drive to take on photo and video back-up responsibilities that were once taken on by Google+. While Google+ is splintering, it appears the brand is planning to leverage its existing portfolio of services and find natural connections between these services in the near future.  So, while Google may be splitting up Google+, the services will still be connected and will still have social implications for marketers to watch.

With the changes coming to Google+ also comes the uncertainty of how these updates will be received in the space. It is important for social media marketers to stay attuned to these changes and be ready to adapt their strategy, if necessary.

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