I don’t know about you but it makes a while I haven’t heard anything critical in the news regarding Google+, the social network (they prefer to call it “social layer” – I will explain why later) Google launched in June 2011. Originally perceived as a new competitor to Facebook, it seems to have fallen back to the shadows and all you hear these days about G+ are merely whispers. What’s up with that?
According to sheer numbers, Google+ is still alive and doing well; as of June 2012, one year after its release, the social platform has over 250 million users, 150 of which are active (note that this number includes subscribers who use google.com, YouTube and the Android Market place, which are all considered related products). More users choose the mobile app to access Google+ than their desktop. Therefore, it would be a mistake to qualify the site as a ghost town; if like me your feed is more or less active, it is merely because you are not following the good people… according to the stats.
In spite of its growing numbers (they are impressive for a website that has only been running for a year) Google+ would still be well behind Facebook with its 955 million users as a social network… but that’s the thing; G+ is not a social network.
Not a social network… say what?
That’s right, you read well. In this article by the NY Times which addresses the image problem Google is having, Vic Gundotra, Google’s Vice-President for engineering, clarified that G+ is a “social blanket that envelopes the entire Google experience”. Our initial perception of this service as a social network was therefore a global misconception… that or Google realized that they would not be able to beat Facebook and switched marketing tactics.
What is up with Google+
Google+ as a social layer that completes the whole Google experience makes sense, but only for someone whose friends, partners and/or colleagues are also on the platform. If I look at my own use, I can easily point out where the issue lies; my friends and followers do not hang on G+, consequently I have no reason to spend more time there than the 30 seconds it takes me to post a link to a new blog article. Occasionally, when bored, I will venture there and see if there is anything interesting on my feed. Many of my friends do have accounts on Google Plus; they simply don’t see the point of using G+ when they already have Facebook. And I can’t blame them.
Whether you love or hate Facebook is indifferent to the reality Google is facing; how can it sustain a social blanket if so little people use it? What’s the point?
Let me throw a few more numbers at you before concluding: According to RJMetrics, the average post doesn’t even receive a +1, a reply or a reshare. Also interesting is 30% of users who publish a post never come back to make a second one, and even after posting four more (total of 5), 15% of them will never make a sixth. So in spite of its hundreds of millions of users, the engagement is unfortunately poor.
Google will need to do something about that to keep its head out of the water. This new social age is all about communications and interaction. A website with tons of users but very limited content and interaction won’t do.
What will happen to Google+? How will the Google team get out of this situation?