Remember something called Google +?

Google+ is still alive today, it’s just not well. I wanted to like Google+ so much, in fact everyone wanted to like it. With Gmail being the primary email service for over a billion users as of 2016 , you’d think that having a social networking service integrated with your gmail would be a no brainer success. However that’s hardly the case as proven by the ghost town of a site/platform or whatever Google calls it. Technically, it should’ve worked. 1) The name itself is direct, clear, easy to remember and already had the word “Google” in it. In fact it’s rather a smart name. 2) The user base has already been established. Users are already familiar with the name and were already using their email service. Obviously those two factors couldn’t save Google +.

According to Forbes and Business Insider, there were several factors that “killed” the product. Let’s focus on 2 factors. (The term “killed” is used here to discuss the failure of its objective which was to be the #1 Social Network platform.)

  1. False problem Assumption: When Google + launched in 2011, they wanted to be the better Facebook. If anyone was going to compete with Facebook, it would make sense that it would be Google. But from the get-go, Google’s problem assumption missed the mark. What was Google’s problem assumption? To launch a social network with its objective being to convert Facebook users over to Google+ their assumption must have been that there’s a need/desire for users to have a social network that’s easier to use, one that doesn’t force the user to leave their inbox. The integration of Gchat (now Google Hangout) with GMail’s inbox is quite successful, so why not add another social feature? But that assumption proved to be wrong. Facebook’s userbase continues to grow and if Google conducted proper research it would’ve realized that most Facebook users were pretty content with the social network. Several factors contribute to Facebook’s success, one of them being that they’re great listeners. When users are angry or dislike a certain feature, Facebook listens and does something about it. There really wasn’t an issue or problem that needed to be solved. It seemed like the launch of Google+ was more of a business decision than a product launched to solve a need. It was simply a product to add to Google’s ever expanding catalog of products.
  2. Poor user experience: To this day I still don’t know how to properly use Google+. 6 years after its launch, most people I talk to have no clue either. The people I asked were were in their 20s and work with technology everyday. When asked if they recall Google+, they answered “somewhat.” Now, Google+ isn’t dead, in fact, everyone who has ever created a profile for YouTube has a Google+ account. Say what? Never knew you signed up for a Google+ account? That’s right! Google+ is linked to your Google profile, though not directly linked to your gmail. In theory the intention was good. They use the term “Community” a lot, aiming to build an intimate community based platform, but Facebook was already super successful at doing that so again there wasn’t really a need. The homepage felt disjointed and less of a user profile, but more of a content aggregator. Though the word “community” was used often, they never used the term “friends”. Probably because they wanted to differentiate from their main competitor, but Facebook users were already comfortable with the word “friends”, and anything that deviated from that felt foreign and alien.

User reviews: This screen show below indicates just what users really think about Google+’s mobile app. Though it’s a small sample of its mobile users it shows just some of the complaints about the app.

Google+ didn’t die entirely. However, in the digital space and with any product, if it’s not constantly innovating, it might as well be dead. Google+ seems to be a all but a faint memory of a product that once caught steam but was never fully realized. The main takeaway from this case study is that without proper research, there can be no success. If there’s no real problem in the field you’re trying to launch a product in, there’s no real need for a solution, therefore no need for the product.