Until I joined Google Plus, I have to admit, I hated social media, but it was this one network that I give credit for today with changing not only my life, but those of many others in incredibly profound ways. For me, it's been a three and a half year love and hate relationship with the world's largest tech giant, and a span of time that both I and my best friend spent building massive brands on this platform, as well as working to fortify both Google's grip and our own on social media. From the network that was once one to be reckoned with in early 2013, to the supposed "Ghost Town" big media later claimed it to be, I've been thru the thick and the thin with Google Plus. Over the course of this past year, it appeared as if the media's awful predictions had become a reality, as I literally watched the communities and their corresponding brands I worked so hard to build shatter before my very eyes; it was as if the network appeared to finally meet its demise. As Google continued down a path of social disillusionment, and the network continued to fall apart, I've once again found a spark of faith, as I cannot and will not let go of something I and others worked so hard to build.
The Path Forward:
For starters, while Google may understand the technology that drives it's network, they don't understand the people and the social culture that makes Google Plus what it is, not the way we do! If Google thinks its current ideas of offering featured collections and bringing aboard 4 Chan's founder Chris Poole is going to lead this network into the future, I'm sorry to say, they've got it all wrong. While it's nothing against Chris Poole, or even Google for that matter, just bringing aboard random web celebrities who know nothing about Google Plus, isn't going to breathe new life into an ailing social platform, one for which a social civilization co-exists that Google can't seem to comprehend.
As for the network itself, the media was almost right, as just a few months ago there might as well have been tumbleweeds flowing through the communities that I and others worked to death to build. After spending the last year seeing this platform's socially engaged culture die a slow and painful death, and watching Google make one epic failure after another, I finally realized something. Even though I can't make Google listen to the concerns of myself, or their members, I never needed too. I realize now these people don't stand with Google, they stand with us.
In fact, the real power behind this platform today lays within its communities base, and with the social masses that have been here all along. The 100,000+ members of Strategic Social Networking, along with the other brands we built across the network, are like a social army, they believe in us and what we do, and they stand with us no matter what.
The realization is that we don't need Google to make Google Plus great again! I've also realized that sometimes you just have to accept the world for the way it is, and sometimes you just have to work with what you have. While our concerns continue to fall on deaf ears with Google, we're now working without them, and we're working to bring back the social culture that once made Google Plus so great.
No More Tumbleweeds:
We're done with watching and waiting for Google to fix things. Sure, the network's engagement levels fell off a cliff, and sure the platform's users wholeheartedly hate the networks new user interface; But, the fact is, we have the power to enact real change over this platform, with or without Google themselves, and today our brands collectively have a reach of the entire network's user base. Our flagship brand Strategic Social Networking is once again thriving, thanks to the dedication of its massive user base who continue to offer their full support to both this brand, it's now massive community, and the network for which it stands.
What I realized here is, if you support what people believe in (in this case Google+), those same people will support you! Being the bulk of my brands were literally born on Google+, we've realized our roots are in this platform, and there's no denying it, we totally play favorites with and back this platform 100%. Why wouldn't we? After all, both the platform and the people are very much a large part of who we are. Besides that, you have to support the people who support you!
During my three year endeavor, I've also realized that discussions are the driving force of any social platform, and it's often the use of content that leads to active engagement. To save our brands on Google+, I realized we needed to revive discussions to revitalize the social culture itself. My answer? Produce compelling content that will drive engagement, and that's exactly what Strategic is doing today.
To make it happen, we've brought on a talented new moderator, Davina Ngei, an aspiring entrepreneur, a world class blogger, and a natural born leader! Together with her, we're pumping out highly engaging content on a regular basis, in an effort to revitalize the network's once vibrant social culture.
So much for a ghost town, as the last article I published and pinned to Strategic topped over 100 shares at the time of this writing. I managed to do this because again, I understand these people, I know what they like, we totally get it, while Google does not. This is something I could not have achieved just 3 months prior when this platform's audience was laying almost dormant.
In fact, it still wasn't until I and others finally woke up and realized we could sit here and do nothing or get to work to make change happen.
To keep our brands, communities, and this network growing, we're going to continue to assign Google+ members like Davina Ngei to prominent positions of leadership across communities where they can enact their influence, drive lasting engagement, and be the real public face of Google Plus.
There are some things that Google can do right now on their end to help make this network great again! For one, they made some bad choices, and the new user interface is one of them. The network's members have made their voices loud and clear, they don't like it, and it needs to either be fixed to scale properly on hi-res desktop and laptop monitors, or it needs to go! The elements appear bloated on hi-res screens is the problem, they're way too big, and the fonts are way too small!
Another thing Google should consider doing is bringing back the games feature they shut down several years ago. The reason it failed was because Google charged too much for people to play the games, and the games they offered were awful to say the least. Why not introduce a new integrated gaming platform with all new titles that users will actually like and want to play?
And last but not least, given the network's suffering of often low engagement levels, and the fact that many communities appear to be almost abandoned by their owners, why doesn't Google give those community owners a real incentive to maintain highly engaged, and properly managed communities? The idea I have here is to allow trusted Google+ community owners to display ads from the Google Adsense platform directly on the sidelines of their communities themselves.
After all, part of the reason Youtube itself has been so successful as a social platform is because it offers real incentives for content creators to produce highly engaging content! I could make a sure bet that offering the ability to monetize with communities would more than likely produce similar results.
On the other hand, we already know what to expect from Google, and again, we have to work with what we got. That being said, community owners themselves can also find ways to monetize on their own, without the help of Google. We plan to start testing the use of sponsored posts in our communities. Being that some of our communities have literally hundreds of brands attempting to advertise their products and services, we wouldn't mind promoting a few of them for a monthly fee. Keep in mind though, you don't want a community full of ads, this would surely anger users and ruin the experience. For that reason, it's something that should be done while insuring it doesn't interfere with the user experience itself.
All being said, if it weren't for the people who wholeheartedly stand behind my brands and this network as a whole, I honestly would have given up and simply thrown in the towel. If the platform means that much to the people of Google Plus, then it means that much to us as well, and we will always fight to preserve it. As for Google, maybe the day will come where they wake up from their dormant sleep and realize they have it all wrong. Either way, I have ultimate faith it remains a platform and a social culture that can surely last, and it's up to the community to make it work, with or without Google themselves.