social media

Is Google Plus a real contender in social media?

For a very long time – a number of years, now – the social networking market has been heavily dominated by two big names: Facebook and Twitter.

For a very long time – a number of years, now – the social networking market has been heavily dominated by two big names: Facebook and Twitter. Yet, these days whenever you click on a video or article (like this very one, in fact) you’ll scroll down to the bottom and you’ll not only have the choice to share it on Facebook or Twitter, but you’ll have the chance to… +1 it on Google+?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I very rarely click that button.

I haven’t really used Google+

I’m not the most technologically-savvy person in the world by any standards, but I’d say that I probably know about as much as the average 19-year-old in terms of the internet and social networking. I have a Facebook and Twitter account which I use regularly, I also dip into LinkedIn and YouTube on occasion, and have fun playing around with the odd blog or website every now and then.

I have always seemed to have a Google account (although I’ve never been sure why, when did I ever need an account to search something?) and probably about a year ago, I set up a profile with Google+.

And if I’m honest, I haven’t really used it since.

Google+ can’t be bigger than Twitter

Occasionally when I think about it I’ll share an article via the network, but that doesn’t even require me to click on my profile. Sometimes I’ll receive an email telling me that someone has “added me to their circles,” but no one actually speaks to me on the network. I once tried a “hangout,” but I didn’t understand that either, so I went back to using Skype.

And it appears that a lot of people seem to be having the same experience as me. I was shocked to read earlier this year that Google+ has become the second-largest social networking site below Facebook. Google+ is bigger than Twitter? That simply cannot be possible.

The statistics: Very misleading

But if you look closer at the statistics, they are actually very misleading – although over 500 million people are registered with Google+, only 235 million are active users of the website. Compare this with Facebook, which admittedly has over double the number of users (it hit one billion back in 2012) but one billion people are still regularly active on the website, which covers the majority of people registered.

Add in research by Nielsen which reported in March 2013 that actually, active users only spend an average of seven minutes on the site per month, in comparison with six hours and 44 minutes spent on Facebook, and the prospects of Google+ look very bleak indeed.

Google+ lacks brand identity

Google has argued that the figures are misleading because people use Google+ via other websites (which does not register as direct activity), but then again the same thing could be said for sharing links on Facebook or Twitter.

The problem Google+ has is that it lacks brand identity. Google has called it a “social layer” which enhances the experience of other websites. This is a great idea in principle, but in practise it requires a lot of people to be using the social network in the first place – and accessing the website for longer than seven minutes a month to see what other users have shared.

We know Facebook and Twitter. What’s Google+?

Facebook is exactly what is says on the tin: a detailed book of people’s lives. Twitter is the opposite of Facebook and cuts all the detail down to a simple 140 characters.

But really, what is Google+?

On the other hand, the social network has improved since 2012, which saw an average of 3.3 minutes spent on Google+. Facebook however has dropped down from 7.5 hours spent on the website per month in the same year.

Will Google+ take off?

So watch this space: perhaps Google+ really will take off when its developers work out exactly what they want to do with the network. But for now, I’m going to use the parent-ometer to judge its success. If even my Dad has heard of it, it’s a viable social network.

And at the publication time of this article, he knows of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but doesn’t have a clue what Google+ is.

What do you think? Can Google+ be a viable social network? Or has it already been beaten by Facebook and Twitter? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.