As I sipped on my Friday morning cup of Dunkin,’ perusing sites such as Mashable, Fast Company and AdAge—to name a few—the news that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his social networking site reached 1 billion monthly active users dominated the headlines.
So I continued reading, jumping from site to site to examine several articles before sharing them with my followers on Twitter and, of course, my friends on Facebook. This subtle yet telling act got me thinking about how Facebook—1 billion users and counting—trumps Google+. Sure, Facebook’s swarm of users trumps most other social networking sites, including Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
But recent numbers suggest that I’m not alone in ignoring that little red G+ share button. Despite reaching 100-million active users, interest in the beleaguered social networking site—once hyped as a more sophisticated alternative to Facebook—has waned. Actually, as Jeff Bullas points out, engagement on Google+ is so low it ranks behind MySpace.
How does an internet juggernaut such as Google allow itself to continue to be kicked to the curb, with social users opting instead for veteran competitor, Facebook? There has to be something that sets Google+ apart, offering businesses and individuals features and services not available to them on Facebook. There has to be a reason we all should like Google+, right?
Perhaps competing with Facebook isn’t the end goal after all.
The numbers: Not quite the alternative
In May, RJ Metrics reported poor engagement and marginal social activity on Google+. Now, the study sampled some 40,000 random Google+ users, but only users who have a public timeline. However, the statistics prove rather daunting for Google.
- Average post on Google+ has less than one +1, less than one reply and less than one re-share.
- About 30 percent of those 40,000 users who made a public post never made a second one.
- Among those who make publically viewable posts, there is an average of 12 days between each post.
- After a member makes a public post, the average number of posts they make in the months following declines steadily.
If I was one of those random users, all the above would’ve been on point. Since signing up a few months ago, I posted twice on my Google+ account—all after the onset of this blog post. I’m not in search of an alternative to Facebook, nor are my friends. In fact, very few of them use anything other than Facebook.
Facebook is social media, the one network that everyone has. Why should businesses take time out of their Facebook and Twitter efforts for Google+, without really knowing what Google+ has to offer? Some small businesses are still learning the ins and outs of Facebook and Twitter, so why waste their time in throwing another social media network into the mix? While at first people were compelled to give Google+ a try, it has since given them any reason to completely abandon Facebook.
“Nobody wants another social network right now,” said Brian Solis in a February 2012 article of The Wall Street Journal.
Take a look at this infographic, courtesy of Umpf.co.uk, that provides evidence that the “Ghost Town” moniker may not be too far off when referring to Google.
What’s in it for me?
On the surface, there are a few unique features that Google+ offers that Facebook doesn’t, and vice versa. And if you look closely at the surface, you’d notice that both social networking sites are to be used in an entirely different way.
Sure, both sites are designed to keep us contacted in an intimate fashion. But Google+ Circles are a neat way to organize friends (or in a small business’ case: customers), engage in discussion relevant to your interests (circles) and share content. With Google+, you can actually friend your parents or colleagues (even your boss or professor) without worrying what you post.
Facebook is flooded with unwanted, useless material (and annoying Farmville notifications). With personalized circles, you can follow who and what you want. Businesses can be selective when seeking their audience and learn more about the people they’re targeting.
On Facebook, even if you have 8 million fans, engagement could be sparse. With Google+, you can tailor specific activities and posts to certain people/circles and have your search rankings positively affected with the +1 button.
Also, while Facebookers continue to voice their complaints about Facebook’s ever-changing design, Google+ has a pretty simplistic, sleek, clutter-free user interface.
And, of course, there is Google+ Hangouts, the most unique and interesting feature of the platform.
Although I’ve yet to have the chance to try G+ Hangouts, it’s easy to see that there a slew of great ways to utilize this feature—from talking to out-of-town family and friends, to holding company meetings or attending out-of-town conferences. You and up to nine other people can take part in a Hangout. You can attend Google+ hangouts from your smartphone as well.
With the rise of photo and video sharing, Google+ Hangouts could be a major success if and when more people begin using the social networking site. Instead of wasting countless hours perusing Facebook for photos and status updates, you could be chatting with friends and family.
Furthermore, through Google’s authorship program, by verifying your email, anything that’s linked to your email address (i.e. a blog post or news article), will appear on Google’s search results with your photo.
This is a great feature for businesses. It not only builds credibility by linking an author and their photo with a particular topic, but it increases the likelihood that someone opts to click on your link. I mean, which link would you rather click on:
Another great thing about Google+ is that it’s linked to Google and all of its applications, like Gmail, YouTube, etc. Everything you need is one click away.
Breaking the mold
I’m already a Google kind of guy, favoring Gmail, Google Chrome and Google.com over its competitors. Perhaps Google+ would be a natural fit? Only time will tell. Google’s senior Vice President of engineering Vic Gundotra says the goal for Google+ is to “make the world more intimate and much smaller.”
Facebook, meantime, may continue to outgrow itself.
Via John Pavley, The Huffington Post