I had such high hopes for Google+. It could have been something special. It could have stolen a lot of Facebook's thunder. It does a lot of the things Facebook does, but it does them smoother and more efficiently. I really wanted Google+ to be a success, but alas, it just hasn't worked and even those who set up accounts haven't really started using the service. As a result, it's become less about engagement and more about broadcasting. Who really uses Google+ for anything useful? Not many.
My primary exploration with Google+ has been with work. When I saw the potential with Google+ I hopped on board and set up an account for Plan Asia. Growth has been slow and steady, but nothing to really write home about. The level of interaction is generally very low and I haven't seen much benefit from having an account. As a result, I scaled back how much time I spent on it and now I just post one update a day to the Plan Asia account and to be honest, that's about it.
The trouble with Google+ is that Google has been very slow in rolling out new features and as a result people haven't started using it in the same way they might use Facebook or Twitter to engage with a non-profit like Plan, or even among themselves. There's no way to import contacts from anything other than a Google account. At times you're left feeling like you're giving a talk in an empty hall. There are no "apps" other than photos and videos and few ways to really customise a profile. You can't even have a custom vanity URL yet unless you're one of a select few brands/celebs to whom the feature has been rolled out.
Of course, there are some brands and celebrities (in various forms and guises) who seem to be doing fairly well on Google+, but you can't base a social network's success on such a small cross-section. The experience for the average user has generally not been such a positive one. For a non-profit like Plan Asia, there's simply more value in reaching out and trying to interact with people on Facebook or Twitter where it's much easier to target certain people/groups.
Where Google+ is heading may have been revealed recently been revealed with the announcement that Google is going to try and make some ground on Yammer and roll out new features for businesses. This from socialmediaopolis:
Google recently announced that it will begin offering corporate control features for its Google+ social network to businesses for free — at least for a while. If you run a Google Apps domain, you can set up domain-wide restrictions on how your users interact with Google+. Your users can also make "restricted" posts to Google+ which are visible only to members of your domain. It's social networking, but with corporate oversight.
That's sounds a lot like Yammer (which Microsoft recently bought for $1.2 billion) and Salesforce Chatter: Sharing streams designed for employee collaboration rather than personal socialization. It sounds less like Facebook, the undisputed heavyweight in social networking that Google+ was supposedly intended to depose.
I don't think this will work. Yammer is already established as a social network for businesses (it's referred to as "Facebook for businesses") and if Google+ can't win over your everyday user of social media, how can it expect to win over businesses that are, after all, made up of everyday people?
People like Yammer because it's so similar to Facebook and it has all the functionality you really need. I think taking Google+ in this direction will just confuse people. Yammer works because people know it's secure and private. If you blur the line between business and personal use of social media, it may cause problems. I don't believe any businesses currently using Yammer would make the switch to using Google+, even if they use a Google Apps domain.
You also have to take into account that Yammer was recently bought by Microsoft for $1.2 billion and so I expect new features to be rolled out in the coming months. Even if Google+ for businesses offers video conferencing and suchlike, Microsoft owns Skype.
Google+ may not be dead yet, but it feels like it's dying and will continue to do so unless Google finds a way to get more people interacting.