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What Businesses Need To Know About Impending Google+ Shutdown

Steve Surdez

It seemed that everything Google touched turned to gold.

That is, until the behemoth company launched Google+ as a challenge to Facebook in 2011. After a security breach that left more than 500,000 accounts exposed and total failure to notify these users despite knowing of the breach months in advance, Google finally decided to pull the plug on the social platform on Aug. 31, 2019.

Loose security wasn't Google’s only issue, however: Engagement over its history was poor and only getting worse, leading the industry to call it a “zombie platform” and “ghost town.” A widely noted engagement statistic reveals that 90 percent of user sessions lasted 5 seconds or less.

So, what does this rare Google product lemon mean for your business? That depends on your company’s level of use. If your social media strategy included Google+ as a formality, posting because you were supposed to and didn't pour heavy time and resources into promoting on the platform, the impact will likely not be significant.

In fact, even if you were a heavy user of Google+ and leaned on the platform, the shutdown might benefit your business.

The bottom line is Google+ was likely not performing and providing solid returns for your investment of time and treasure. Regardless if you were a passive or aggressive user, your time and money are better allocated and deployed elsewhere in your social media and marketing strategy.

What You Need To Understand About The Google Plus Security Breach

Still, a platform that you and your team have used is going away next year and there are items you need to understand and steps your business needs to take to salvage any useful data. Here’s what you need to understand and do prior to August 2019.

First, if you have not done so already, your team needs to understand the details of the security breach to ensure it was not exposed and understand what to do if it was. Google published a blog about the breach that included the following important details (the following are directly quoted from the Google blog post that you can read in more detail here):

  • Users can grant access to their Profile data, and the public Profile information of their friends, to Google+ apps, via the API.
  • The bug meant that apps also had access to Profile fields that were shared with the user, but not marked as public.
  • This data is limited to static, optional Google+ Profile fields including name, email address, occupation, gender, and age. (See the full list on our developer site.) It does not include any other data you may have posted or connected to Google+ or any other service, like Google+ posts, messages, Google account data, phone numbers or G Suite content.
  • We discovered and immediately patched this bug in March 2018. We believe it occurred after launch as a result of the API’s interaction with a subsequent Google+ code change.
  • We made Google+ with privacy in mind and therefore keep this API’s log data for only two weeks. That means we cannot confirm which users were impacted by this bug. However, we ran a detailed analysis over the two weeks prior to patching the bug, and from that analysis, the Profiles of up to 500,000 Google+ accounts were potentially affected. Our analysis showed that up to 438 applications may have used this API.
  • We found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any Profile data was misused.

What You Need To Do About The Google Plus Shutdown

Again, the level of impact and the steps you need to take will depend on your usage level to some degree. What you’ll likely want to save is any Google Plus data your account gathered. Here’s how you can download your data in preparation for the forthcoming shutdown:

Visit Google Takeout. You’ll need to use this tool to download your data. You can find it here.

Select the Google Plus data you want to keep. To download Google Plus data, select the following data sources.

  • +1s
  • Google+ Circles
  • Google+ Communities
  • Google+ Stream
  • Hangouts
  • Hangouts on Air
  • Profile

Finally, adjust your Google Plus download formats and choose where and how your Google Plus data is stored.

In addition to saving your data, here are a few other issues you’ll need to resolve:

  • Remove the Google Plus social sharing button from your entire internet footprint.
  • If you are currently active on Google Plus, begin phasing out activity; notify any Google Plus group members that you’ll be shutting the group down and continuing dialog on another social media platform of your choice.
  • If you had specific success with a particular content type on Google Plus, research and find another online outlet where you might be able to repeat this success.

What Does The Shutdown Mean For Your Social Media And Marketing Strategy

If your business employs an integrated marketing approach, meaning you’re not heavily reliant on any one channel for success, losing Google Plus should not have a negative impact. And it actually might benefit your marketing efficiency and performance via addition by subtraction.

In many cases, for consumer and business users alike, Google Plus was created by default from another Google product like Gmail. And businesses might have spent valuable time using Google Plus because they felt they had to rather than from a proven, tangible data set that showed impact and success from the platform.

All that is to say if the platform’s engagement levels were so low historically, why were businesses using it in the first place? Some might argue that Google Plus helped from an online search authority standpoint; a case can certainly be made there. What Google Plus’s demise might remind marketing and social media teams of is this: data tracking, establishing KPIs (key performance indicators), analyzing data and measuring returns is critical to maintaining efficiency and sparking growth.

Doing something because you’re supposed to has its pitfalls and negative impacts. Successful integrated marketing and social media strategies build on what provides multi-faceted value. And that might be the ultimate lesson learned from the platform’s downfall.

If you’re an organization that’s seeking to revamp or establish its management processes, we can help. Illumine8 Marketing & PR has helped organizations of all sizes establish benchmarks and create new avenues for performance measurement and analysis that help them grow smart. Reach out to us today. We’d love to discuss your vision for the future and how you see your company getting there.

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