April 24, 2014, 3:16 PM

Google Plus’ chief subtracts himself from Google

Vic Gundotra, who has overseen Google’s social network since its June 2011 launch, had been at the search giant for nearly eight years.

Lead Photo

Google Plus is minus its leader.

Vic Gundotra, the senior vice president of engineering who has overseen Google Inc.’s social network since its June 2011 launch, announced today he is leaving Google.

“Today I'm announcing my departure from Google after almost eight years,” he writes in a post on the social network. “I'm also forever in debt to the Google+ team. This is a group of people who built social at Google against the skepticism of so many. The growth of active users is staggering and speaks to the work of this team.”

Google launched Google Plus amid much fanfare. But the social network has largely failed to gain traction among consumers. While 22% of U.S. online adults say they use Google Plus at least once a month, they, on average, only spend about seven minutes a month on the social network, according to a recent Forrester Research Inc. online survey of 61,104 online U.S. adults conducted in April 2013. For the sake of comparison, 72% of respondents said they use Facebook at least once a month and they spend six hours a month on the social network.

Nonetheless, Google has woven Google Plus throughout its businesses, including featuring brands’ Google Plus posts on the right-hand side of its search results page. Those Google Plus posts may help boost a brand’s search engine rankings for consumers who follow the brand on the social network, Nate Elliott, Forrester vice president and principal analyst, wrote the recent report “The Case for Google Plus” that argued Google Plus should be a part of retailers’ and consumer brands’ marketing mix.

Yet, at least one analyst says that the limited amount of time consumers spend on the social network means retailers should focus their attention elsewhere. “Google Plus has a very small share of the social market,” says Joe Martin, analyst for the Adobe Inc.’s digital marketing research division Adobe Digital Index. “Even if the market [to drive sales] is there, for some reason most retailers haven’t been able to capitalize on it. Google continues to try to invest in it, but at this point it looks like Facebook and Twitter are the dominant social players and others like Pinterest and Tumblr are fighting for room at table.”

Google CEO Larry Page thanked Gundotra for his work in a Google Plus Post. “You built Google Plus from nothing,” he writes. “There are few people with the courage and ability to start something like that and I am very grateful for all your hard work and passion. I really enjoy using Google Plus on a daily basis…Good luck with your next project after Google.”  

Google has not yet named Gundotra’s replacement, nor has Gundotra said what his plans are.

Google says that Gundotra’s exit will not change its Google Plus strategy. “We have an incredibly talented team that will continue to build great user experiences across Google Plus,” says a spokeswoman.

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