Google+ has long been the black sheep of the Google family, and the broader social media community for that matter. Even Google itself has acknowledged the network’s shortcomings, as former Googler Chris Messina candidly wrote how both he and Google had fudged up. Chris’s word choice was a bit more colorful. And then there was the departure of Google+ creator, Vic Gundotra, in April 2014 – arguably the most ominous sign for the social network’s future at the time. But while Google+ was undoubtedly mishandled early on, it does still possess promise for brands.
For starters, Google+ pivoted in March when Google decided to divide its properties into three distinct components: Streams, Photos and Hangouts. This move not only addressed Google+’s main struggle, but also its real purpose: identity. Google+ was meant to help users to better form an online identity. Yet since its conception, Google+ never had a concrete identity of its own – other than basically being “Facebook by Google.” Most people weren’t entirely sure about what they were supposed to be doing on Google+ to begin with. Then there’s the fact that Google+ was such a late arrival to the social networking game (7 years late compared to Facebook). Some folks might have been deterred by seeing Google+ as merely a major corporation’s attempt to become hip to social.
Regardless, Google+ is still important for brands and here’s why:
According to a Pew Research Center study from March 2015, nearly half of Hispanic teens use Google+ (48% of Hispanic youth compared to 26% of white teens and 29% of African-American teenagers). Pause. Now consider that information in greater context with U.S. Census Bureau statistics. Since 1970, the Hispanic population has grown 592% (by comparison, the U.S. population overall has grown 56% over the same period). The Hispanic population is also expected to grow by another 86% between 2015 and 2050 (in 2050 there will be approximately 106 million Hispanics in the United States, which is about double what it is today). Clearly, with Hispanic teen usage rates, the reports of Google+’s death have been greatly exaggerated. U.S. Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group in the country, fueled mainly by natural domestic growth as opposed to international migration. A more Americanized Hispanic population with an affinity for Google+ is a hidden goldmine for marketers, as Hispanic influence increasingly impacts the cultural mainstream. By most accounts we know Google+ and “failure” have been synonymous – and yet it commands arguably the most valuable demographic for brand marketers today and into the future.
Google+ adoption might trickle down to even younger Hispanic generations too. Pew Research reports that as more schools adopt Google tools in and out of the classroom, it could account for increased access to Google+ for children in elementary and middle school. Coupled with the National Center for Education Statistics report that highlights how Hispanic post-secondary enrollment rates are rising, a stable growth trend in young Hispanic Google+ usage is possible — potentially extending to Hispanic Centennials. Brands abandoning their Google+ accounts should reconsider those decisions, especially in the CPG and retail spaces, which are prime markets for younger consumers.
Many retailers and manufacturers are already fully aware of the Hispanic buying power. Poised to reach $1.5 trillion this year alone, Hispanic shopping dollars hold considerable influence. J.C. Penney, Target and Macy’s have all devoted resources to become in-store destinations for Hispanics and evolve to be more culturally relevant. Not only does Macy’s celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, but company executives even flew to Mexico City where they stopped at 16 shopping centers and “scanned more than 20,000 bodies of potential customers, analyzing their physiques” to better understand clothing sizing and preferences, according to Fortune. Much like the exclusive community of diverse and highly influential Latino bloggers at ColectivaLatina, Macy’s understands valuing the Hispanic shopper, and its robust Google+ presence reflects that knowledge – including using the platform to market its Thalia Sodi Collection geared toward Hispanic women.
Look in the top or bottom corners of company websites and see if you can still find those “g+” widgets. Check out brands’ Google+ pages and see if they’re still active. Since it falls under the greater Google umbrella, it’s easy to think Google+ has stuck around simply because it’s too big to fail. That may be true, but the opportunity it has with Hispanic teen buyers is too big to overlook.