Google’s CEO Larry Page has announced this year that Google+ has crossed over the 100 million user mark. I am one of those 100 million users, but at the moment I don’t get it, there seem to be very few people using it.
Software developer RJ Metrics has conducted a study into public interactions on Google+ and has published some less than flattering results. After reviewing the activity of 40,000 users, RJ Metrics reportedly discovered 30% have only made one public post. What’s more, there is a 15% chance users will only ever post five times. On average there’s a gap of 12 days between posts, and on top of that, each post receives less than one +1, reply, or share. Overall, the regular users Google + does have are steadily reducing their activity month by month. Hardly the sort of results you’d expect from a site that has more users than there are people living in Cyprus.
Google have issued a statement in response, insisting more interaction is happening through the site’s private channels than public; making RJ Metrics’ report inaccurate. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to have stopped publications such as Forbes broadcasting the conclusion that Google+ has a large base of very inactive users. So what’s really going on?
The initial idea of Google+ is a good one. It combines all that is popular about Facebook and Twitter with the professional practicality of LinkedIn, giving users a central hub for all of their social media needs. It also takes existing functions one step further – for example, enabling users to put a +1 button on their external websites, enabling them to generate “likes” outside of their profile pages and improve their Google SEO. Users can also privately target posts to their Circles of contacts, enabling them to keep their work and personal lives separate. It then has its own functions for example, the Hangout sessions where users can have video web-chats with up to 10 people. Not only can they chat in a Hangout, they can all view and edit documents online using Google Docs, use Google’s links to YouTube to watch videos simultaneously, and now even broadcast their Hangout live using the newly released Hangouts On Air.
But this is where I find it gets unclear, as I can’t work out who Google+ is aimed at. Is it businesses, especially small businesses looking for easier ways to reach with colleagues around the world? Is it teenagers looking to broadcast their talents to the globe and stream videos? The set-up is very neutral, meaning that it may appear too business-y for casual users, and too relaxed for professionals. After all, would companies want to organise a hangout with investors, or a conference call?
The last issue is that we are already using many of these features in Skype, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – at the moment I’ve not been convinced to move elsewhere. What are your thoughts on Google+?