social media apps on smartphoneMost people think of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat when the topic of social media is brought up. It should come as no surprise then, that Google announced through a blog post yesterday that it would be shutting down its latest social media platform, Google+. For those of us keeping track, Google is rejoining Apple, Yahoo, and Walmart on the list of companies with failed social media platforms. Google+ launched in 2011 and is expected to be fully shut down by August of 2019.

In its blog post, Google admitted that its social platform had low usage and engagement. Some might say that’s an understatement considering that 90 percent of Google+ user sessions were less than five seconds.

Google had already failed at a social network with Orkut

Orkut was developed through a Google initiative that allows its employees to spend 20 percent of their work time on passion projects. (Original blog post — website is down, blog post on web archive,  news link referencing this claim.)

The social platform was named after its creator, Orkut Büyükkökten. Unexpectedly, the platform gained popularity only across Brazil. After a decade, Google ironically shut down Orkut in part to focus on Google+.

Apple also failed at social networking with iTunes Ping

iTunes Ping launched in 2010 boasting the platform’s ability to follow artists, create posts, share concert plans, and show off music purchased. (Original website — website is down, website on web archive, link referencing Ping’s features.

Apple celebrated having over one million users 48 hours after releasing Ping, though the celebration was ultimately premature. The concept of connecting with people based on music preferences sounds intriguing. That is, until you realize that your friends tend to listen to the same music as you and that you enjoy talking about more than just music.

Yahoo Buzz didn’t generate enough buzz

Yahoo Buzz was announced in 2008 with the idea of allowing users to vote, or Buzz Up, news and other content. (Press release on web archiveMashable article.) The Yahoo Buzz platform was intended to function similarly to the modern-day Reddit platform. In other words, users would vote on content and the most popular content would reach the front page of the website.

Unfortunately for Yahoo, users preferred other platforms and ultimately merging user votes with organic search popularity did not work out.

Walmart sort of tried with The Hub

Creating a successful social network for teenagers is no easy task, but that’s just what Walmart attempted in 2006. (Original website — website is down, website on web archive, Ad Age article.)The retail giant attempted to brand the platform as a website where teens could “express their individuality”, but notified their parents when they signed up, prevented emailing other users, and screened all of the content published. 

Walmart’s attempt at a social network lasted less than three months.

Social networking is not so easy

As the companies in this post will likely tell you, creating a social network is not as easy as it may seem. In fact, even successful social networking companies are likely to admit that keeping users engaged requires endless hours of research, constant innovation, and excitement from returning users.