When Google+ was launched three years back, speculations were rife that it would make life difficult for the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. That obviously hasn't come to pass!
STEVEN PHILIP WARNER | New Delhi, January 24, 2014 12:43 Tags :
Moriusaq |Google+ |Greenland | Larry Page CEO | Google |Orkut |Mark Zuckerberg CEO | Facebook |Nielsen Media Research |Jeff Weiner CEO | LinkedIn | |
Moriusaq isn’t a ghost town. Not yet. This town in Greenland has a population of 80 in 1980. It fell to 39 by 1998 and 5 by 2009. Today, this settlement in Greenland has two only inhabitants left – a father and a son (the son runs the local power plant!). Moriusaq had a shop, a school, a church, and even a library, but all services are currently inactive due to lack of people. In fact, in 2007, the school closed, and the last teacher left for a town 52 miles north-west of it (called Qaanaaq) because there were no school-goers left in Moriusaq! But, as we said before, this town isn’t yet a ghost town. The analogy with this geographical landmass might seem a hyperbole, but it can’t be nearer to the truth when you talk about Google’s fantasy with social networking – the once much-hyped Google Plus (Google+).
Google+ isn’t a ghost town yet. Why? Because some of us are in it too. And like most on our network, we’re in love with the idea of having our name and profile picture pasted on a web property – free! [Glad?] But when we hear advertising agencies talking, they talk Facebook (FB). Brand strategists, CEOs, CMOs and even communication chiefs are all about the same social networking site. Where is Google+?
Still for a time, all seemed golden with Google+. The social network hit the 40 million-user mark in the four months that followed its launch (by mid-October 2011). Then, all experts were going loudabout how the Larry Page army will mow down the FB skyscraper in under a year, two at most. That wasn’t to be.
Today, the social property is close to becoming a three year-old. And still there is no sign of it taking on the likes of Twitter (that has a user base in excess of 500 million – as per Semiocast – as compared to Google+’s 359 million users). Leave alone a more innovative and efficiently-run FB (user base of 1.11 billion: 1/6th of all Earthlings use the social engine – incredible!).
359 million does seem a credible figure but here are some real numbers that will make you start writing off the Google+ project as a revolution that is fast waning (not dead yet), marking a repetition of the now-forgotten Orkut (that Google created in 2004)!
As per Nielsen Media Research (inMarch 2013) an average Google+ user spent a mere 6.8 minutes a month on the site, compared to more than 6 hours on FB. Findings from a comScore study puts Google+ into a lower class. It reported that users spent only 3.3 minutes per month on the site in 2012. Compare this to FB’s 7.5 hours. Talking about ‘active users’, there are just 135 million monthly active users on Google+ today, as compared to 170 million active users on Twitter, 151 million on LinkedIn and 693 million on FB (as Trendstream’s Global Web Index; Zuckerberg claims this number exceeds 1 million). Analytics firm RJMetrics reports that the Google+ population “Is largely disengaged, with user activity rapidly decaying”. It claims that 30% of first-time Google+ public posters don’t return to the site again, and of those who make 5 posts, 85% don’t bother to repeat the act! These are facts that make Google+ the nth choice for marketers around the world.
Some experts claim that it is unfair to compare a 9 year-old FB to a 3 year-old Google+. But isn’t 24 months enough time in an era where most Internet users are living on the edge of a volcano? A recent Reuters survey revealed that that of the 100 most valuable global brands in 2012, only 28 were on Google+ as compared to 87 on FB. So here’s a sneakpeek into the interest that marketers of commercially driven brands have on the two platforms: The three top brands on Google+ are Angry Birds (5.6 million ‘Fans’), Android (5.3 million), and Mashable (3.2 million). On FB, they are Coke (69.5 million ‘Likes’), MTV (46 million) and Disney (44.8 million)! Clearly, there is a strong bend of marketers of consumer brands towards the older social machine. Perhaps Google can launch an advertising tool for Google+ that will get more consumer brands and therefore get more consumers on board. [But doesn’t it always work the other way around?]
Perhaps Google+ was too late to the party. Perhaps it got into the battle with the wrong set of tools (even today, while FB engages users on a personal level, Google+ doesn’t talk beyond ‘Circles’. Perhaps new features like ‘Hangouts’ are just too foreign for social networkers. Perhaps, Google should have just worked on revitalising Orkut than spend millions on a fresh start. Perhaps...
But the game is not over yet. If Motorola and Nokia can go down, so can FB. But you really need an Androidian magic or that half-eaten Apple’s charm to delight online visitors. Google+ doesn’t need a dramatic face-lift. It lives and everyone knows that. Only problem is, so far, we haven’t come across one billboard or ad-page that has “Find us on Google+” written on it. All could be well, and Google+ could be doing just the desired harm to FB. Or may be the picture isn’t beautiful and chances of his brainchild becoming a ghost town like Moriusaq is giving Page sleepless nights.