In short: Google has now announced new features for its enterprise implementation of Google+ while users on the consumer side still digest the news its version of the social media platform is closing down. Google announced the new features via its Google Cloud blog, and in conjunction with announcements made on stage during the ongoing Google Cloud Next London 2018 event, explaining the new features will make it easier for admins to control Google+ communities, and easier for content shared on Google+ to surface in front of the right people. The announcement also makes the case these are just the start of the new features enterprise users can expect from Google+’s “new direction.”
On the admin side, Google notes it’s improving Google+ admin controls by providing those in need the option to “review and moderate” employee posts once they are live. This will follow on from the already available ability to onboard users en masse by migrating entire Groups to a new Google+ community, and the option to view engagement metrics for individual Communities. Adding to the reviewing feature, admins will soon be able to deliver specific communications in their own dedicated and custom feeds. These will be labelled as “Streams” and allow for employees to quickly access (and respond if wanted) to content that might be more applicable to them. To put this into relation to the consumer version, the normal feed Google+ users see when they log in to Google+ is what Google refers to as the “Home Stream,” and the new enterprise version will allow for similar feeds for a range of specific topics and keywords, such as “Global Leadership,” “Ideas,” “Questions,” or any other custom feed admins want to create.
More generally speaking, Google is also introducing “tags” to Google+ which is designed to help different employees access content that's likely to be more applicable to them. Tags are effectively hashtags and what Google is doing here is introducing the ability for those creating posts to see and click on “suggested tags” that are automatically created by the software and based on the content of the post. As is the case with hashtags in general, tags will collate like-minded posts together in one easier to navigate location. Therefore employees down the chain will be able to simply click on a specific tag to see all posts related to that tag. Some of the example Google provides of these automatically suggested tags include #research and #customer-insights.
Background: Google+ launched back in 2011 and primarily as a social media site operated by Google and as a means to rival the likes of Facebook. Over the years the consumer version of Google+ did not gain enough traction to realistically compete with Facebook, and/or many of the major networking services that have emerged since. Although in spite of this it has retained a consistent user base and is more often now typically thought of as a tech-based social media site, appealing to those specifically interested in the technology sector. On the surface this might seem to directly chime with Google, it has led to the situation where many have believed for some time Google+ had become more of an afterthought for Google. More recently, however, the biggest turning point in the Google+ story took place when Google suddenly announced it was closing the consumer version of Google+ in favor of migrating the service completely over to the company’s G Suite as an enterprise-only tool. While this was a sudden announcement from the user perspective, it quickly became clear the move was in part a result of a significant data breach that had taken place earlier in 2018. At the time Google did not publicly disclose the data breach (something that is now understood to be under investigation and the subject of criticism by many), and instead opted to confirm the incident at the same time as announcing the slow deactivation of the consumer version. This also timed well, and in reality was likely propelled by a report which broke at the same time disclosing the finer details of the breach. Both of which came merely hours before Google held its now-annual hardware event where it unveiled a number of consumer-oriented hardware products, including the all-new Pixel 3 and 3 XL smartphones, the new Home Hub smart display, and the Pixel Slate. During the initial closure announcement Google did make it clear that in addition to the support needed to keep the service safe going forward, the service itself was suffering from levels of usage that did not necessary justify the service as a viable consumer-facing product.
Impact: The timing of this current announcement arguably leaves a lot to be desired as those who have stuck with the Google+ service over the years are still in the process of digesting the news their primary social media service is officially coming to an end. However, Google has made no secret that it wants to transition Google+ to an enterprise tool and although the consumer version is not due to shut down until August of next year, Google is unlikely to want to wait that long before it starts to make the necessary moves to ensure enterprise users are aware of the benefits of using its solution as a collaboration tool. Instead, Google will want to have the enterprise version as ready, rich and adopted, as possible before the consumer users are removed from the picture. This accelerated approach can be seen quite clearly in this latest announcement where Google not only details the new features that are now coming, but also how it plans to continually improve the service going forward. Ironically, In spite of the fairly big redesign Google+ got back in 2016, the maintenance of the consumer version has routinely been one of the main criticisms leveled at the service by its users. It would seem therefore, this is something Google is not looking to repeat going forward with Google+ as an enterprise-only entity likely to be marketed to desired users as a modern, updated, and highly-backed service by Google.