by Mike Murphy | July 27, 2017
In 2015 when many considered Google+ to be dead, ACSI customer satisfaction scores correctly predicted stronger customer engagement. With Google+’s 2017 ACSI score up 7% from last year, we can expect a strong performance in 2018.
On June 28, 2011, Google+ took the social media scene by storm. Replacing the short-lived Google Buzz, the much-vaunted Google+ platform was promoted as a place where you could “Get way into what you love.” Google+’s initial features included photo posts, interest communities, distinct Circles, multi-person messaging, location tagging, and, of course, Hangouts. With Google+, Google had once again demonstrated its vibrant penchant for innovation and disruptive technology.
In the first couple of years, Google+ grew quickly, jumping to over 500 million users by late 2013. But its quick growth was also its Achilles' heel. The rapid user growth inevitably included well-intentioned users who would up spending little time on the platform. Consequently, a 2014 New York Times article by Clair Cain Miller called Google+ a “ghost town.” Miller wrote that if you wanted to see updates from your friends, “chances are, you’ll use Facebook instead.”
Even at that time, Facebook was the dominant platform. And Facebook was actively wary of features and offerings by competitors that might disrupt Facebook’s pole position. Facebook took the Google+ threat seriously and actively worked to incorporate Google+ features into the Facebook platform, thereby stunting much of Google+’s momentum.
By 2015, many business journalists were writing obituaries for the struggling Google+ platform. An April 17th Forbes article by contributing author Steve Denning gave five reasons why Google+ was dead. Denning wrote, “Google+ is now effectively dead. All that is needed is the funeral.” One reason for Google+’s death, said Denning, was that Google+ was not listening to its customers. According to Denning, “Google keeps making the same error over and over again, because it [doesn’t listen to] its customers.”
But if business writers had looked at the 2015 ACSI numbers, they might have reconsidered pronouncing Google+’s death. In 2015, when most everyone said Google+ was a goner, the ACSI reported a 6% jump in Google+ customer satisfaction, going from 71 in 2014 to 75 in 2015. While critics were tolling the funeral bell, the ACSI results were telling a different story. Google+ was beginning its reinvigoration to start delivering more value to users.
But if business writers had looked at the 2015 ACSI numbers, they might have reconsidered pronouncing Google+’s death.
In fact, Google+ was listening to its customers. On November 17, 2015, Google+ announced its rollout of a newly-designed interface. The new Google+ had narrowed its focus on two key services that customers wanted—Communities and Collections—with faster speeds, a simpler layout, and easier navigation. They even removed the cherished Hangouts feature.
Two years later, we see a large 7% jump in the ACSI score for Google+. This 5-point move from 76 in 2016 to 81 in 2017 demonstrates another significant improvement in the Google+ user experience. Industry writers are beginning to catch on. Colm Hebblethwaite at Marketing Tech News writes, “Rather than being dead, it seems that Google+ has found its core audience.”
The 2017 ACSI results have clear implications for businesses. Businesses that have largely dismissed Google+ should now consider it as a potential channel in their social media ecosystem. The media ground is shifting. And because customer satisfaction is a predictor of customer behavior, we can predict increased usage, loyalty, and word-of-mouth activity bolstering Google+ as a valid social media channel.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Google+ competes for users’ time and attention among a host of competing alternatives. The competition is fierce with popular incumbents, such as Facebook or Twitter, as well as new entrants, such as Minds or Snapchat.
In any case, the next time anyone makes predictions about the health of Google+, they might want to check the ACSI to see what actual customers say about the Google+ experience.