By Caroline Henley

August 13th, 2015

Google announced recently that it will no longer require users to sign in with Google+ to access its other products–in particular, Google decided users no longer have to sign in to Google+ when commenting on YouTube.

The Google blog’s announcement was called “Everything in its right place”–a fantastic Radiohead song, well worth quoting. Which I get, as Google continues to improve its products, it aims to improve the user experience: to put everything in its right place as user habits evolve.

The media, though, took this as exit music for the entire Google+ network. In fact, the reaction picked up more notes of Coldplay than of Radiohead, and ran with the ‘conscious uncoupling’ storyline.

So what does Google+’s conscious uncoupling with YouTube really mean? Google’s post only offhandedly mentioned the break between Google+ and YouTube, but this divorce was the one that caused the stir. The media ran with it, saying G+ was history.

To comment on the above video, for example–you are no longer required to sign in to Google+. To many, this signaled the end of an entire social network.

Will Goop and Coldplay both go on to co-exist, and be able to thrive separately? Or will one be forced to fold?

They were all yellow
Our Special Events Executive, Mikkel Plæhn, loves using G+. He uses it for personal branding and discovering the latest and greatest marketing resources.

“I’ve built a network of people in the same industry as myself, mainly in Denmark. The reception of G+ has always been really good. Twitter networks in Denmark are kind of small–same goes for our G+ communities.”

Mikkel and his colleagues needed a place to communicate using more than 140 characters (Twitter), and which wasn’t his private space (Facebook). LinkedIn was still inappropriate for that kind of broad engagement.

“The traffic I can generate on G+ surpasses Twitter by miles. The lifetime of the G+ content is way longer than that of a tweet,” Mikkel says. “And, Google+ Hangouts makes a convenient and interesting stage for live presentations.”

Google+ fit a need perfectly. And with the options to add rich media, and to format updates to look like mini blogposts, it’s easy to make everything look clean and professional in these networking communities.

But as LinkedIn and Facebook evolved alongside the network, and Google attempted to force the Google+ habit into its other user experiences, it became clear that Google needed to right its own ship.

I was lost, crossed lines I shouldn’t have crossed
With the announcement that users will no longer have to sign in with Google+ to interact with Google’s other networks–YouTube comments for one–Google is fixing the issues Google+ has had in a changing social media landscape.

Many criticized Google’s attempt to force Google+ engagement in places it just didn’t fit. Why would YouTube viewers, with no vested interest in building communities over on Google+, be forced to sign up for the social network?

Others worried the social network was ‘outing’ users’ private data. By forcing users to assume a social Google+ identity across Google products, the lines between public and private were becoming blurred. 

Further, out of Google+’s 2.2 billion users, only 4-6 million are active (with YouTube commenting excluded). The habit, though strong in some, remains niche.

So it makes perfect sense for Google to right its own ship, and work to improve in Google+ what has become the most useful for its active users.

Turn into something beautiful
One of our clients is the Royal British Legion, the UK’s organization to represent the Armed Forces veterans. Its thriving Google+ community is admiral–excuse me!–admirable.

google+ and youtube

What is a relatively niche community–UK veterans–is also a deeply passionate interest among its members. The Google+ page provides a forum for the organization to share news, useful information, and a spirit of remembrance. 

Google’s second announcement last week was even bigger, and gives the new business restructure an overall context. In an effort to make Google’s business efforts more accountable, Google has been subsumed by an umbrella organization called Alphabet. Google is now its own standalone company, or product, within Alphabet, as Google+ is now its own standalone product within Google. We’ve been monitoring the discussion tone about the announcement on social media and plan to share the results of our analysis tomorrow.

I stand with the Radiohead comparison: everything in its right place. The G+ network is still a viable vehicle for what it was always best for: building communities with shared interests. And the network will focus on optimizing its Streams, Photos, and Sharing to support that growth. 

(And Radiohead, with its painstakingly layered vocals and instrumentation, and peerless career and overall discography, will always win out over Coldplay.) 

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