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Google Minus

November 24, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Every Saturday, I take a look at what’s been going on in the business world and evaluate where a company’s PR and marketing has been going right and where it has been going wrong, and analyse what can be learned from this.

A couple of weeks ago, Google managed to attract the ire of many by radically changing the YouTube comments section so that it required a Google Plus account in order to post anything. However, Google Plus is not a popular service. Originally touted as the New Facebook by Google, it was released onto the web, and went completely untouched.

No one needed a new social network. Facebook was fulfilling everybody’s needs, and Google’s service wasn’t proving itself to be better or more worthwhile. It has often been called slow, cluttered and ugly, while Facebook, despite its own many controversial changes, typically provides a relatively streamlined service that does what people want it to.

Due to the poor uptake of Google Plus, Google decided to find new ways to attract users. The problem was that their method of doing so was to make a Google Plus account mandatory for every user of their other services. The Google Play app store on Android recently made it impossible to review an app without a Google+ account, every Gmail user now requires a Google+ account just to access their email, and now YouTube has come under the same umbrella.

This is an absolutely terrible business practice and has achieved nothing beyond artificially bumping up Google Plus usage statistics, and even then, usage per user is still minimal. It also affects Google’s PR in a number of different ways, and harms the brands of both Google and YouTube.

The central problem with this strategy is that it shows that Google have a complete lack of interest in the opinions of their users, and any business that so openly shows hostility and coldness towards the people that pay their bills needs to readjust its PR strategy.

They have made attempts to appear open and willing to suggestions, but their actions prove that they are not. YouTube is full of feedback forms and you are free to address any complaints to their support forum. However, none of the feedback presented through the forms ever seems to be acted on and the support forum is just full of people shouting for answers into a bleak void.

There is no other way to contact anyone at Google or YouTube in order to seek further help. For a service that wants to be so social and community-based, this lack of communication sends the wrong message.

But even beyond direct methods of contact, Google have failed to listen to their customers in other ways. Namely, no one signed up to Google Plus when it was announced. Even when it opened publicly and not just by invite, people ignored it. And it certainly isn’t because it wasn’t marketed properly, because it was. Everyone knows about Google Plus, but it has instead become the butt of everybody’s jokes. It has been branded a failure by the public at large, but Google are not listening.

If Google had a good PR team in place, they would realise that there were two correct options given the circumstances; either they listen to the feedback and adjust the service accordingly to make it more appealing to the public at large, or they abandon it and bow out of the service graciously.

The incorrect option is to force it onto people using more popular services. This doesn’t serve to make the unpopular service popular, it instead has the opposite effect – it turns people away from the popular services.

As an indication of how bad the situation is, many popular YouTube partners have disabled comments entirely instead of attempting to use the Google Plus integration. This includes the most-watched channel on YouTube, the video game channel PewDiePie, with more than 16 million subscribers at the time of writing. That’s 16 million users being redirected to other sites to leave comments, taking traffic away from Google.

Searching for “Google Plus” on the site pulls up some interesting results. On the first page, which shows nineteen results, fourteen of those videos are expressing negative opinions of the service, with the top result being vlogger Emma Blackery’s charming little ditty about the integration, with the lovely chorus of “F**k you Google Plus”

What Google need to do at this point is reverse the decision because it has proven to be incredibly unpopular, admit that Google Plus was a failed experiment, and apologise for messing everybody around. Some may argue that as a free service, they don’t owe anybody anything, but if they continue on this path, there is a very high chance that someone else will swoop in and provide better video hosting services, drawing users away from YouTube, taking all their potential ad revenue with them. And this fact needs to be realised.

But the PR problems go even further, and even become a little sinister. In order to sign up for Google Plus, you need to us your real name. Google does not want you to be anonymous, but this is an interesting stance to take because Google, as a company, is rather anonymous. As stated, there are no real communication channels to contact them through, and there is no human face to the company, with many of the management team remaining hidden and unwilling to place themselves at the front and centre of their activities.

This is a problem. A CEO unwilling to put his or her name and face to their product suggests embarrassment or fear. They do not want to be associated with the product, which to most people simply raises the question, why should we want to be associated with it either?

Google is rapidly losing trust and they need to address this fast. A failure to start listening and start acting on their feedback could lead to an ever-increasing backlash that will leave Google rather high and dry.

The lesson here is that companies always need to listen to the feedback of their customers. It may not always be possible to implement all of the requests, but certainly paying attention to the biggest complaints goes a long way.

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  1. No comments yet.
  1. November 24, 2013 at 10:53 pm
  2. November 25, 2013 at 8:21 pm

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