Google Plus, the social and community site from the Mountain View company, celebrates its 5th birthday today. The site and service was the 4th attempt by Google to bring forth a social networking site after Buzz, Friend Connect and Orkut all died. Plus is by far the longest lived of any attempt into this arena by Google and over the course of 2014 and 2015, it looked like it too would end up on the digital trash heap. But it hasn’t. Google continues to tweak on it both on the web and in apps for Android and iOS. It has evolved from a proper head-to-head competitor of Facebook and even Instagram to something different. Sure it has the elements of those services but it is really more focused on community. Within Google Plus you can easily find a community of like minded people on a whole range of subjects and interests. You can create your own topic creations, your own communities and share them with everyone. Not only is Google Plus surviving, you could make the argument that it is thriving.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I started playing with Plus a couple of years ago, I didn’t get it. The site layout was not intuitive, there seemed to be no real rhyme or reason to it. It was just…
stuff. Everywhere was stuff. Then Google started decoupling things from Plus like Photos and it looked for all the world that things were dying. Then in November of last year a major revamp of the service started. Google with a reasonable amount of fan fair announced a completely revamped Google Plus experience was coming and, in fact, users could try it immediately. The move was to focus the service on Communities, collections of fellow users with common interests around a subject (like Formula 1 for me as an example), and would be tweaking and improving it over time. Now, some months later, we are over a dozen revamps of the site in and it continues to be tweaked on, primarily driven by user feedback.
The reason I think it is thriving is by looking at the analytical data for this site. In December 2015, I had less than 2% of the referral traffic to the site from Google Plus. For those who don’t know, referral traffic is when you click a link somewhere to come to ClintonFitch.com. In June 2016, that referral traffic is up to nearly 15%. That is still less than the 28% I get from Twitter but more than the 12% I get from Facebook. To me this means that Google Plus is not only surviving, but it is starting to thrive a bit. I talk to more people now who use Plus than I ever have (be it at work, Meetup events, etc) and it isn’t just the geeky crowd any longer. Many professionals and individuals from a very diverse background are starting to show up on the service and leverage its community centric worldview for their personal and business benefits.
While none of this means that Google Plus will survive long term, it is sufficient to say that, for now, it isn’t dying on the vine. It was just 12 months ago so the turn around has been remarkable. I think the community concept is working and the new layout and functionality of the site and the apps for Android and iOS are helping.
Happy Birthday Google Plus. I, like many, didn’t think you’d see the day. Cheers to the next 5 years and I’m anxious to see what you have in store.