Earlier this week, Google unveiled some major changes to Google+, its social networking platform.
Since it launched in 2011, Google+ has been an integral part of the Google experience, as the search giant used it to unify its disparate services.
But on Monday, Google announced that it will stop treating Google+ as its digital glue.
As Bradley Horowitz, Google’s VP of Streams, Photos, and Sharing, explained:
People have told us that accessing all of their Google stuff with one account makes life a whole lot easier. But we’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use.
So in the coming months, a Google Account will be all you’ll need to share content, communicate with contacts, create a YouTube channel and more, all across Google. YouTube will be one of the first products to make this change.
That news was cheered by many YouTube users, who were not happy when Google integrated YouTube comments with Google+.
But what does Google’s announcement mean for marketers?
In social, size doesn’t matter
The size of a social network matters, of course. But the size of the company behind a social network doesn’t.
Despite its vast audience and ability to essentially force its users to use Google+ in some fashion, Google couldn’t keep upstarts like Instagram and Snapchat, which launched within a year of Google+, from becoming even more vibrant social platforms.
For marketers, the diverging fortunes are a reminder that the most meaningful platforms of tomorrow are equally likely to come from companies nobody has heard of than they are from companies that everybody knows.
Google is giving up on competing directly with Facebook
Although evident for some time, Google’s announcement makes it clear that the search giant knows it is never going to compete directly with Facebook for social networking supremacy.
While some, like The Wall Street Journal’s Alistair Barr, see Google’s move as a confirmation that Google+ is essentially dead, others see the possibility that Google+ might now be in a position to matter.
Either way, marketers still using or interested in using Google+ can now treat it as something other than a poor Facebook competitor.
The data is (probably) still there
As Grant Owens, chief strategy officer at digital agency Critical Mass, told AdWeek:
I don’t think Google will entirely kill anything that allows them to tie user data together across their touchpoints. he combined data story is what marketers, especially programmatic advertisers, are willing to pay a premium to access.
If Google can dismantle all of Google+ without undermining the combined data view, then I could see them letting it fade away into the sunset. But if Google+, in any way, still underpins a single-data view of a consumer prospect, it’ll be around for a while.
Given Google’s thirst for data and savvy around using it to build the web’s most successful ad business, it’s highly unlikely that Google would proceed to scale back Google+ without having a way to keep a robust combined data view.
So marketers probably don’t have to worry that Google’s ability to track users across its properties and translate the data it gathers into insights that can help deliver ads has been diminished.