As we marketers all know by now, the merits of Google Plus as the next big social platform have been hotly contested since its unveiling in June 2011, so what is the issue preventing it from taking over the digital space?

At it’s basic level the platform is Google’s attempt to fold seven features in one neat package. Some of the Google Plus features are amazing, they’re beautiful, they’re innovative, but no one cares.

The Google guys came up with Google Plus as a way to incorporate all those neat features, but they forgot about presentation and user experience. This misstep helped turn Google Plus into a lonely island of over 400 million registered users, and of those registered users only a quarter of them are active.

So why don’t people use it? Is it the functionality? User experience? Some missing cool factor? Or could it be due to a bigger issue?  To help answer this question, here’s our take on what works and what doesn’t on the island of Google Plus.

 

Worthy Features

Hangouts – a great way for groups to connect on a personal and professional level, we’ve held countless meetings through hangouts.

Photos – the photos feature allows instant upload from mobile and provides a great solution for storage and sharing. Bonus the images are displayed well, even close-ups are appealing.

Profile – We have two words for you: author rank. If you haven’t heard of author rank, it’s the up and coming way to establish people as an authority, not just a site. When you add all the sites you are connected/contributed to/have profiles to your Google Plus profile, it allows you to bring your credibility to the site. Otherwise, if Robert Scoble wrote on siteiveneverheardof.com, you’d never hear about it.

 

Not So Worthy Features

Navigation –  The UI is too complicated for the average user and there are too many features to navigate. One of the halmarks of Facebook and Twitter is that their navigation is designed to make hard things simple – Google Plus doesn’t do that.

Events – There is potential here, but if the rest of the world doesn’t use Google Plus for aggregate events than it’s rendered useless. Plus Facebook events can sync with Google calendar on mobile and you can download an app to sync with Google calendar on your desktop, making Google Plus events unnecessary.

Messenger – Do we really need more messenger apps?

Circles – This will not go mainstream. Just like Twitter going mainstream with lists… Circles is at the core of G+ and this is where they lose all momentum… lists are just an ancillary feature of Twitter and not core.

Home –  people are far more likely to use Facebook, Twitter, and news feeds (Flipboard, Prismatic) than the Google Plus home page because they already have a relationship with those platforms and know they will be getting relevant content.

 

New Kid on the Block –  Communities

Google Plus Communities launched late last week, allowing users to connect in private and public groups depending on your privacy preferences and the rights you want to assign to community members.

Communities will support  discussion categories, hangouts, and the ability to share with your group, but how is it different than circles? Well, think of it as a message board where the owner or moderators have control of content submitted by users. Because Communities can be set to public, they’re open to search and sharing on any website (potentially utilizing those plus 1 buttons you see). We’ll have another post on Google Plus Communities as they roll out, but for now we can say we see benefits from a search perspective.

 

When you think of Google, what comes to mind?

Social features aside, there is a bigger problem that Google Plus has to confront.  From a marketing aspect the separate silos of social play on Google Plus and search of google.com have prevented Google Plus from digital space domination. Which leads us to ask the question, “Why would Google not integrate all of the play features to be housed in google.com?”

What Google should’ve done was ditch the idea of a separate platform and integrate the worthy features natively. Features would always be visible to users, thereby incentivizing them to enjoy and build a relationship with social features and search components simultaneously. If Google Plus features were housed natively, it would not only integrate but strengthen it’s most valuable feature: search.

We use Google Plus daily so we’re not advising you to stay away from it, but we do think the social aspect of Google Plus should be a byproduct of what Google Plus really is, a search platform, it shouldn’t be an island unto itself.

What Do You Think?

Do you use Google Plus on a regular basis? If not, would platform integration change your mind?