Last week, Google announced important upcoming changes to the integration of Google+ across Google services and the function of the Google+ platform itself. A public Google+ profile will no longer be required to access other Google services, just a Google account. The changes start with YouTube and over the next few months, users will no longer need a Google+ account to create a YouTube channel, or upload or comment on videos. Some Google+ features, such as the ability to edit photos, will also be moved away from its existing platform and into current and new standalone products, such as Google Photos. The recently-introduced Google+ Collections, which creates categorized streams of posts by topic, will also allow users to create and follow specific topics of interests.
By not requiring people to create a Google+ account to use other Google services and splitting off features, Google is shifting Google+ away from a long struggle of trying to compete with Facebook and other leading social networks. Taking a step back from the competition will allow Google to focus on improving and developing other useful non-social network tools. In turn, as a social network, the updated Google+ will be more streamlined, and focused on connecting and engaging people around niche interests through Google+ Collections. According to Google, these changes will lead to a “more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+.”
In order to be successful, new social networks need to either greatly improve an existing service or find their niche, like Instagram did with sharing curated images and Snapchat did with sharing unstaged, disappearing moments. Google+ originated as a way to share information to select social groups through certain “circles,” but that differentiating feature was not enough for Google+ to grow in popularity. Google+ as a social network isn’t going away, but it will be more focused on bringing together consumers who are passionate about a topic, service, or product.
Brands that are active on Google+ will need to be even more in-tune with what their customers are interested in and ensure their content on Google+ is highly targeted to their audience on the platform. For example, Collections can be a good way for brands with diverse audiences to segment posts based on specific interests. Whether this move to focus on bringing together similarly-passionate groups of users will be Google+’s successful place as a social network remains to be seen.