First Twitter, now Google+: has Google lost its mind, or is there a method to the madness?
Back in the long-ago days of September 2015, Twitter dropped a bomb shell. The still struggling network that everyone agrees has potential but never quite lives up to it, quietly announced they were removing the share counts from Tweet buttons on the web.
Naturally, the internet lost its collective cool before the ink was even dry on the digital paper.
And there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
At the time, we brought you all the facts about that update in a comprehensive post, what it could mean, and what, if anything, we could do to solve the problem.
In the end, we delivered on our promise to do everything we could to bring back those Share Counts to our Social Warfare Plugin for WordPress, by doing just that. Because of our commitment to delivering the best social sharing plugin on the web, our users have continued to enjoy the benefits of Twitter share buttons, Share Counts and all. Just like the kind mom used to make (if your mom was a developer).
And there was much rejoicing.
You could be forgiven for thinking this was just Twitter being Twitter, a one-off fluke. Dog gotta bark, bird gotta sing, Twitter gotta find ways to undercut their own value. Se la vie.
Now, however, Google+ has decided to join the party as well. A couple of years late but just as dressed to impress depress as their fine feathered fellow network.
The much-maligned network once touted as a “Facebook Killer,” announced in a Google+ Post by Product Manager John Nack that they will also be removing the share count (aka +1 Count) from their web Sharing buttons. They claim that the purpose of this move is for making the +1 button and share box load more quickly.
At that point, of course, all hell broke loose in the world of the Plus. Or at least as much hell as its users could raise about it from behind their keyboards.
So, as we did for Twitter, we’re here again to give you the skinny on what this means, both in general and for our valued Social Warfare customers.Google+ has decided to drop support for share counts. Here's what you need to know!Click To Tweet
So What is Google+ Thinking?
Is this really just a move intended to make the +1 Buttons load more quickly?
As with Twitter, we wondered if there was a financial motive, or maybe it was some power play against 3rd party developers. Google+ isn’t directly monetized (apart from whatever pocket change the company may have earned from the technically cool but never very in-demand +Post Ads), and never really had an API, so surely that can’t be it.
Google+ critics and cynics, of which there are many, might say, “This is proof they’re planning to kill Google+, just like we’ve been predicting,” but surely that would be reading too much into a small change to their web sharing buttons.
Maybe we should just take Google+ at their word on this one?
They’re no longer trying to be a giant-slayer. They’re not forcing every user of all things Google to sign up for an account anymore. They have nothing really to gain from this beyond shaving a little load time (maybe) off 3rd party websites.
Still, it is odd.
If you use and care about Google+ as part of your social media or SEO strategy, keep reading. And remember to bookmark and share this post out with others.
This is important. Even those who don’t use Google+ or depend on it for shares should know.
Reasons Why You Should Care About This
The effect this change will have on your website or business depends on a lot of factors. Here are a few things to consider:
Impact on bloggers
If you’re a blogger, your Google +1 button won’t show visitors how many times your posts have been shared.
This could lead to fewer shares and less interaction. This could be especially true if you use Google’s own Blogger site, which includes Google+ sharing buttons by default.
Impact on native advertising
If you’re an online pro who gets paid big bucks for helping promote brands on social media, you’ll lose a primary way of showing advertisers how popular you are with the online masses – social proof.
That could put a dent in your bank account, especially if Google+ has been a strong network for you.
Impact on developers
If you’re a third-party app developer, your app may lose a critical part of its functionality, and you may lose subscribers or customers because of it.
Insights From The Plus Influencers Themselves
To get a better sense of the real impact of this move, we created a Google+ post and invited some of the biggest influencers and evangelists to comment.
We asked people why they think Google+ would do this, what they thought and felt about this decision, and what sort of impact it might have on social media and social proof.
Here are some of the insights we gained from this, and we invite you to add your thoughts as well, either on the Google+ post or in the comments below.
Why Would Google+ Do This?
Unlike Twitter, which generated all sorts of theories and even conspiracy theories with their move, the range of speculation on this part of our query was pretty consistent to three points:
Possibility 1: It really is about speed improvement
Google+ really does just want to speed up the load time for the +1 button and sharing box.
Why they suddenly deemed this important is not very clear. Although it may have something to do with the primary source of their user growth, as mentioned in number three below.
Possibility 2: Competing with bigger counts
Google+’s share counts rarely look that impressive next to Facebook, and often get lapped as well by Twitter, Pinterest, and other networks.
Maybe Google doesn’t want to invite (even more) unfavorable comparisons, especially as growing the network to market domination is no longer their White Whale.
Possibility 3: Disassemble
Google+ is being slowly but surely shut down by their parent company. For all their proclamations that they continue to support the network, they just want to ease users off of it gently before sunsetting it.
This was mostly suggested as unlikely, especially since the network continues to show active signs of development and support.
And Google can likely find justifications to keep it even if it makes no money, such as using it as a testing ground for new features. Google Spaces, for example, which shut down but quasi-reincarnated its features into Enterprise Hangouts.
At any rate, Google has nothing better yet to replace Google+ with so they might keep it until they do. This is the same thing that happened with Orkut, which was mostly used in Brazil and India until Google+ outgrew it.
That latter is especially noteworthy, as the company has even said that Google+’s strongest source of user growth and engagement of late is outside of the English speaking world. Part of the Material Design UI redesign they gave Google+ last year was about making the network faster and snappier for those users (perhaps explaining Possibility 1 above).
What Are Your Thoughts and Feelings About This?
This announcement is still just starting to get noticed and hasn’t been seen even by all the evangelists and influencers of Google+ yet. We also want to hear from all of you reading this, but here are some of the main response types we’re seeing to-date:
- It’s absolutely devastating to me.
- It doesn’t matter, anyway, because no one/not enough people care.
- It would have mattered to me once, but not any longer.
- It’ll just confirm people’s suspicion that Google+ is a ghost town.
- It’ll kill any marketing interest in Google+.
- It could be a good thing!
The consensus was that, unlike with Twitter (which shook the marketing earth), this mostly will not impact Google+ and its users. At worst, there seems to be surprise and a stoic resignation. No one seems to be heading for their bunkers.
And, as we said about Twitter,
“Just as the SEO world found ways to deal with grossly diminished reporting of search data for analytics, the social media community will develop workarounds to meet the challenge.”
However, as our good friend and marketing maven Randy Milanovic pointed out,
“While the enlightened may see little need for social proof, whether it’s a share count, 5 stars, testimonials, or award wins, social proof is an immensely powerful tool for marketers. One less tool.”
As we said, this matters.
And now to our final query– Drumroll, please!
What Impact Will This Have On Social Media and Social Proof?
As we said the last time, this is a tough, tough question. Our crystal ball scrying still needs more work before we can see the future clearly on this.
No one really seems to think this will have anywhere near the impact of Twitter (sorry, Google, but we have to be honest about this), although for some people it will have as much or more.
Some consequences are pretty likely, such as decreasing some people’s interest in the network as a source of traffic and engagement. Others possibilities, such as the virtual annihilation of marketing interest in the network seem more likely. And some things seem pretty unlikely (at least in the short term), such as this being a step in the near future demise of Google+.
What’s The Solution?
If this move is likely to impact you, the best advice is probably to get out in front of it and now and start coming up with a strategy. Unfortunately, we may have to take that advice ourselves, as there’s no way to know right now how this will impact 3rd party sharing tools like Social Warfare.
At the moment it seems to lead towards losing all support for Google+ share counts, but we are working hard to clarify with Google. We will update this post when we are 100% sure.
We’ll know more as the dust clears and the fleas shake out, and as always we promise to do anything and everything within our power to bring those share counts back!
Some Of Our Favorite Quotes So Far
We’re grateful for the insights of everyone who has commented so far. They had no time to prepare, and we needed responses quickly so we could get a handle on the situation, possible solutions, and what to tell you, our readers and plugin subscribers.
Some quotes especially have jumped out at us. Click on the names to find out more about them.
“I for one am not happy at all. My blog isn’t much to look at … pretty outdated, but all of my shares, some numbering over a thousand, came from G+. Without G+, I have nada since I put all my eggs in the G+ basket so to speak. It is a shame. This platform was so much fun and so exciting, and little by little, they tore it down.” – Christine DeGraff
“I think it’s both bad for publishers and for Google+. The publishers who value that social proof now have 0 reasons to keep the G+ share button on their articles. With lower visibility, less opportunity to easily share to G+, people will simply forget to.” – Dustin W. Stout (Co-founder, Warfare Plugins)
“[Share counts] have no value beyond ego fluffing. None at all. It always has been a veneer of engagement, when in fact it’s valueless.” – David Kutcher
“I get the sense that share counts across services aren’t all that accurate – esp. Twitter.” – Gideon Rosenblatt
We Want To Hear From You!
We’d really love to hear from you and get your perspective on Google+’s decision to kill +1 Counts. Sound off in the comments below or tell us how you feel on the social platform of your choice. You know what to do!
P.S. If you’re not a fan of Google+’s decision and want your share counts to remain, use the hashtag #SaveOurShareCounts and join the other folks petitioning against this change.