Google+ is Alive. Just Remember It’s a Social Layer, Not a Social Network.

Seven Layer Jello by Ron Paul -

There has been a been a lot of chatter on various social networks, okay on Twitter, that Google are pulling of out of the Social Networking business, and closing Google+.

We love Google+ and in our social business workshops we talk about the benefits, especially the Google Authorships combined with Google+'s apparent effect on search and SEO.

And it seems that its not just us. Big brands have been investing heavily in Google too. I'm sure that Facebook's changes to pages i.e. paying to reach beyond 5% of your fanbase, has had a lot to do with it.

Cadbury has attracted over three million followers to its Google+ page and is impressed by some of the unique features available on the platform, especially its "hangouts" tool.

Other brands such as Topshop, Ferrari, BMW and H&M have also attracted considerable followings to their Google+ pages - though still small compared to their equivalent number of Facebook Likes.

On the other hand, The Economist has over six million Google+ followers, far exceeding its Facebook following. This may be a confirmation of our belief that the Google+ audience tend to be early adopters, technophiles, people in the industry and slightly more serious users of technology.

Faced with the belief that Google+ is the future and the knowledge that brands are making it work, I hear that the Twittersphere is telling me that Google is pulling out.

I went and asked the two brightest people I know in the UK on this topic (just to confirm 'know' in the social sense, i.e. met at a conference and follow on twitter, not in the real world sense of have a beer down the pub once a week): Mr Jeremy Waite (@jeremywaite) and Mr Kelvin Newman (@kelvinnewman).

I asked it if was going...and this was my first reply.

"Great" - I thought. Big relief, it's staying. It's #NotFacebook, so that's good. It's a Layer. Wow. Not a platform, but a layer.

So, what's a Layer?

Matt Cooke, product marketing manager for Google+, points to the fact that Google+ has a range of unique features. On top of Hangouts, there are circles, and cool features such as Auto Awesome, where users can upload four or five pictures taken in sequence which will be automatically turned into a moving GIF file, but more importantly it links together all the Google products from mail, maps and documents to YouTube, search and apps.

So Google+ is not so much a social network as a "social layer" which connects across all of the Google offering.

If you have a Gmail account, you are automatically given a Google+ account, and I can start to see how it ties together (for example in a recent move Google changed it so you could only make comments on the YouTube site from a Google+ account).

My view is that Google makes it revenue from the journey through advertising (about 97% of its revenue is from advertising), so it doesn't need to monitise Google+, and that puts it in a strong position when compared to those social networks that have either shareholders to keep happy or preparations for an IPO.

According to Matt Cooke, Google+ has 540 million monthly active users, 300 million of which view their Google+ content stream at some time during the month, while 1.5 billion photos are uploaded to the site every week. He says,

"Slowly but surely we are getting a feeling that there's a real momentum, but it is still early days and there are plenty of opportunities to grow and add new features and make them easier to use"

Early adopters are getting in their now, with the hope that it turns out to be the site where the next big social media party happens. But many seem content to wait and see, and we believe there is still a lot of work to be done, especially in B2B.

In our social workshops over the last 6 months, which have seen around 150 delegates go through the course, only 5 people use Google+ in their business, compared to 140 using Twitter and almost everyone on Linkedin.

So long live Google+, we'll continue to extol its virtues (especially 'Hangouts on Air' as a low cost way to create video content for B2B).

Photo (cc) Ron Paul on Flickr.



social layer = a good designation

Wise words from Jeremy. As a social layer, and even as an identify of sorts, blurring the lines between what my 'social online behaviour' and my 'private' online behavioural data says about who I am (and what to market to me)