How a More Focused Google+ Could Succeed
Surprisingly... very surprisingly... the infamous +The Verge
(known in some Android circles as the pejorative 'iVerge'), has probably written the single best, most balanced piece yet on why the narrative of a more focused Google+ isn't necessarily PR spin, but could very well be what it needs to become a 'Top of Mind' network.
Being honest, and speaking as one very fond of Google+, and while I don't deny this network enjoys considerable 'reach' (integration across Google tends to guarantee that, or did at least), it lacks one thing most popular social networks enjoy: being top-of-mind.
Facebook: Friends and Family
Instagram: Pretty Pictures
Pinterest: Pretty Pictures of Stuff You Want
Twitter: Real Time
Google+ doesn't and never did have such a hook. Forget being too much like Facebook: it wasn't enough of anything. The Photos part was certainly vibrant, vibrant enough to be split off as its own app. Hangouts is a great communication tool, and likewise great on its own. So what is Google+?
Users like myself will tell you, it's the best place to follow great people for the great topics and content you love. Unfortunately, it hasn't always been easy to explain to people how to find this. Despite its obvious strengths, Google+ split the onboarding process between a futile attempt to get your friends and family joining up with you, and a supposedly interest-based following that really just lumped people known for some interests. While the latter was an attempt of sorts, it suffers a basic problem: Chefs don't only post about Chef-ing. Shared Circles could sometimes help people find a good group to follow, but were more often used for spam.
While it is likely only a first step in the right direction, Google finally seems to be fully embracing its users love for what the platform is good at with Collections, interest-based collections of posts by users, which users can follow without following the person, or unfollow without unfollowing the person (so if I love your muscle car posts but hate your politics, I can follow the one but not the other... assuming you did them as Collections).
If Google+, over the next period, really focuses like a laser on its unique talents, they could very well find a niche which, while not likely to overthrow any other network, may be both sufficiently valuable in terms of data and perhaps even profitable for Google, which so far has struggled (in part due to the good reason of no advertising... whether that lasts or not) to monetize Google+.