Blogging can be a huge asset to companies wanting to set the record straight. It's an ideal format for explaining difficult decisions and offering a transparent view. Interacting with readers in the comment section can make even unpopular news more digestible.Then we have Google, the resident experts in stilted, one-way communication, performing a master class in how to blog wrong. The circumstances? A chance to clarify the future of Google+ in light of some changes on how Google accounts are linked. The result? A tone deaf display of unintentional humor that resulted in reams of "G+ is dead" stories (Larry Dignan got it right, this is more of a downgrade than a burial).
Here's my rundown on Google's post, along with my "transparency translations" for your reading pleasure.
Google: Blog Title "Everything in its Right Place"
Translation: G+ left its toys out on the lawn again.
Google: "When we launched Google+, we set out to help people discover, share and connect across Google like they do in real life."
Translation: Facebook was eating our lunch; we desperately wanted to beat them at their own game and protect our search business from their social graph.
Google: "While we got certain things right, we made a few choices that, in hindsight, we’ve needed to rethink."
Translation: Admitting failure isn't our style, so we're asking you to join us in the fiction that G+ was a small project with some worthwhile outcomes.
Google: "So over the next few months, we’re going to be making some important changes."
Translation: This isn't a tag sale, folks. We found a really nice spot for G+. It's off the main drag, but the rent is lower and there's plenty of space to mingle.
Google: "Google+ is quickly becoming a place where people engage around their shared interests..."
Translation: Due to low traffic and lack of adoption, the only way to get traction on G+ is through niche communities. Yes, you can also find shared interest groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, but we need to look away from that, or we'd have to ponder our irrelevance.
Google: "We’re well underway putting location sharing into Hangouts and other apps, where it really belongs."
Translation: Hangouts was by far the best thing about G+, and works great on mobile, we'd be crazy not to separate and eventually monetize it.
Google: "People have told us that accessing all of their Google stuff with one account makes life a whole lot easier. But we’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use."
Translation: This one's tricky, so bear with us, but we're trying to simultaneously defend a crappy decision and also admit force-feeding you G+ didn't work. Now that we have accepted G+'s fate, we have a rationale for rolling back unpopular features like linking G+ to your YouTube account. Oh, and just to show you we're serious about this, we even took down our own YouTube profile from G+ - click on the link and you'll see, 404 - that's an error. Woohoo! P.S. no, we haven't removed our YouTube G+ profile from our search results yet. We'll get to that - we're busy being a cloud company ok?
Google: "And for people who already created Google+ profiles but don’t plan to use Google+ itself, we’ll offer better options for managing and removing those public profiles."
Translation: It finally dawned on us that forcing you to be public with a persona you didn't want was deeply problematic. For those of you who have more than one Google account, which caused tremendous identity confusion on G+, we may finally give you a way of fixing that, though not without redoing some G+ circles on your own time. But that's ok - we know how much you enjoy managing your circles and how intuitive you find them. The good news for us is that while we failed head-to-head against LinkedIn and Facebook, we now have enough information about you to maintain our own social graph.
By the way, for all the SEO experts who wasted their time and yours by insisting the G+ Author Profiles would elevate your Google search status, we've already taken care of that by completely dismantling the G+ Authorship program. Your G+ author profile no longer gets any search visibility and G+ Authorship is gone - and we mean gone like Google Wave and Google Buzz gone - like goners, ok? We know G+ Authorship was complicated to implement and wasted plenty of your time. No worries. Sorry we didn't mention that in this piece but we're trying to stay upbeat here, ok?
Google: "You’ll see these changes roll out in stages over several months."
Translation: We realize that cloud rollouts should be immediate, but you have to understand, these changes do nothing for our bottom line, so we are pacing ourselves. But hang in there, one day in the next half year you'll log in and see a modest, perhaps indetectable, improvement.
Google: "While they won’t happen overnight..."
Translation: Didn't we already cover this? Hold your freakin' horses, update your LinkedIn profile or post kitty photos on Facebook or something...
Google: "[These changes are] right for Google’s users—both the people who are on Google+ every single day, and the people who aren’t."
Translation: [These changes are] right for Google’s users—both the fraction of people who are on Google+ every single day, and the millions and millions of Google users who aren’t.
From what I could tell, Google did not get involved in the 3,000+ comment thread (unless I missed something). What do you think this is - a company that runs a social network and gets how to engage? Anyhow, it's back to tiny classified ads for Google, I guess. And for the rest of us: a tour-de-force example of how not to communicate change.
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