google-plusGoogle+ is ending as we know it. Google announced it will split the platform into separate services called Photos and Streams, or essentially posts and everything else. Google Hangouts will continue as a standalone messaging and video conferencing service.

How the separated services may evolve is not clear. The Google+ name will remain, at least for now. But most digital marketing pundits agree the restructuring signals the demise of Google+.

The passing of Google+ has been predicted in digital marketing circles. The social media network failed to gain the large user base needed to challenge the dominance of Facebook or Twitter. Some users described the network as a ghost town frequented only by businesses interested in SEO points.

The Lesson to be Learned

Whatever eventually happens to Google+ and its offspring, PR and social media marketing pros should take Google’s announcement as a lesson. The restructuring itself isn’t the point. The point is that it’s highly risky to put all your social media efforts onto any one platform.

Companies that focus their marketing efforts on a social media network have no control over what the network does. Social media networks can revamp their services at any time or even disappear entirely. Every PR and marketing strategist needs to consider how their business would survive if their go-to social media network drastically changed or disappeared.

While Google+ is heading to the social media pasture, other networks continue to evolve quite rapidly – and most of them are heading in the direction of monetizing their user base. Many pundits predict the major social media networks will evolve from earned media to paid media networks. The days of free social media placements by companies about their products are dwindling rapidly.

The changes in networks also underline the dangers of jumping on the newest shiny object. Just a few months ago Ello was a social media darling ready to take on Facebook. Now, it resembles a social media ghost town.

The Importance of Using Multiple Networks

In social media marketing and PR, spreading your investment is mandatory to prevent being blind-sided by a major change in your preferred social network.

As social media marketer Adam Vincenzini observes, Google’s announcement underlines the importance of being channel agnostic. In other words, develop content that you can place on multiple social media networks and in earned or owned media.

 “If you are the kind of business that has chosen to invest all of your marketing eggs in the social media basket… you’re in trouble,” warns Carrie Morgan, digital PR consultant and head of Rock The Status Quo. “Not only do you have just one basket, but that basket is on fire.”

The demise of Google+ reinforces the importance of owned media, Morgan argues. Although press releases, social media networks, and editorial outreach still offer value, PR must emphasize their own, or clients’ websites, not websites under the control of others. Organizations can also consider building their own social media networks with BuddyPress, an out-of-the-box network building tool for WordPress sites.

Bottom Line: The planned reorganization of Google+ exemplifies the danger of relying on social media, especially a single network, for public relations and marketing. Instead of putting all eggs in one basket, savvy businesses employ a range of PR and marketing strategies, including media relations, content marketing and owned media.

This post was originally published on the CyberAlert blog.