Recently Google announced the resignation of Vic Gundotra a chief executive and visionary of the Google+ platform. Publications like Techcrunch already have detailed what this could mean for the future plans for the entire platform. At the very best Google+ is destined as a stand-alone platform. The once grand vision of a social network that would unify all Google products and rival and un-seed Facebook and Twitter in relevance and usability has been officially deemed a forgotten dream. In the end, even with Google’s might, they still couldn’t force the market to adopt the platform. To really understand where Google went wrong in their user adoption strategy, one needs to analyze the different phases of development and user engagement.
Phase 1- Happy Beginnings: Google+ Launch Generates Buzz & Excitement
Similar to other Google products the initial release was an invite only affair. The only way you could join the platform was through a forwarded invitation. People were eager to test out the platform where you could classify friends by circles, have multiple viewer controls and neatly organize your social network and link it across google products. After signing up for the account though many users quickly realized that there were no significant differentiators or added social user value by using Google+. Most people signed up, created a basic profile and went inactive nearly immediately. Google created a buzz but failed in executing a differentiated, value driven customer proposition through Google+.
Phase 2- Open the Gates: Gmail Users, Company Platform
Google understood that there was not enough user engagement or sustained social interactions across the platform. Their solution to address this was to have everyone who has a gmail account be automatically signed up for the platform. In addition Google rewarded active users by promoting their posts and reputation through search engine rank results based on their Google platform content.
Companies slowly became aware of the value of posting and engaging in Google+ for SEO purposes. They could suddenly get an uptick in visibility on new content and existing pages by promoting them on Google+. Marketers and agency strategists preached the importance of the platform and its “unlocked potential. To this day one can find that most business pages on G+ have more posts than the bulk of it’s North American user base.
Google broke its cardinal rule and standard operating ethos by trying to “game” and incent users to the platform rather than have the experience of the platform be the primary draw.
Phase 3- Unwinding: All Mediocre Things Must Come to an End
Google realized that despite the grand vision and unified intent of Google+ the lack of market traction and “organic” interaction spelled doom. It was not enough to have the large user base, the incentives and the user friendly platform. The platform became a punch line with marketers only using it for the search engine rewards it afforded. At the end of the day the platform frustrated users and tied them unwillingly into the Google+ ecosystem. The end of the current vision of the Google+ platform shows that even Google cannot buy or coerce user engagement and adoption. Google+ is a perfect case study for the need of thoughtful user adoption centered strategy in marketing.