Before “epic fail” entered our vocabulary, I would describe a hopeless failure as getting a grade of F-. It was one step lower than just a straight up “F”. If we carry that logic even further, a “G+” is worse than an F-.
Google has been very vocal about how they consider Google+ to be a runaway success. Many have estimated that the service has over 100 million users, and that it’s meeting every metric they’d hoped for.
My own social network didn’t quite reach one million users before we shut down, so I must be off my rocker to claim that a service, orders of magnitudes higher is a faliure, right?
Not exactly. Here are three data points for why Google plus isn’t a sucessful social network. Spoiler alert – it’s all about engagement.
1. Sharing is many times lower than the competition.
I’ve pulled a few examples from across the web and it routinely the same. Google plus sharing is a small fraction of that on competing networks. One example on Business Insider showed over 195 tweets, but only 6 shares on google plus. Even more telling, is that the article was about Google, an all too shared subject on Google+. On average I found that there was less than 10% of the shares on Google of any other top network.
2. Topic trending is much lower on Google Plus
If choose a hot subject on Twitter and conduct a hashtag search, it’s not uncommon to see hundreds or thousands of tweets per second. Even minor topics can generate dozens of posts per minute.
In direct comparisons between subjects on google plus and twitter, G+ is typically generating less than 1% of the post volume. For example, when coachella featured a tupac hologram, twitter was quite abuzz. Even the next day, there were about 100-150 posts per minute, just about the tupac hologram. On google plus, we recorded about 2 per minute.
3. Photo sharing is radically different on Google Plus
There are about one billion reasons that photo sharing is important to social networks. Facebook spent that amount to acquire it’s mobile competitor, Instagram. Pinterest has been growing massively nearly exclusively through photo-sharing. Google plus, however seems to take a different tact.
Google recently announced they would hold a seminar for professional photographers on using Google Plus. This is a very different form of sharing. Anecdotally, these are the photos I usually see in my G+ stream. While these photos are pretty engaging, they lack the common appeal of the mundane. In other words, it’s not what real people do. As a result, there does not appear to be the depth
In short, by most of the engagement metrics I can observe, Google Plus falls very short. However, Google seems to view it as a massive success. Are they lying, or is Google Plus something else?
My conclusion is that Google Plus is not about creating a social network at all.
First, Let’s revisit Google’s mission statement.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful
That statement is a tell of the real purpose. The voluntarily supplied data, even with fairly low engagement, is helping them with their mission.
Second, search results have changed since the product launched.
With the appropriately named SPYWorld (search plus your world), search results now have more intent data to supply relevant results. My search for Penguins is likely about the hockey team, while others might be more interested in the flightless bird. In both cases, they’ve improved their primary product through the use of this secondary one.
What do you think? Is G+ a fail, or strategic genius? Does it need engagement, or is that actually an optional feature? Comments are open.