Talking about Google+ has always been a strange experience, sometimes bordering on Zen-like paradox. It is both a Facebook competitor and not a Facebook competitor; similarly, it is a social network but also not a social network (because it is, rather, a “suite of social tools”). To the list of questions with diametrically opposed answers we can now add the big one: “Does anyone use it?”
Google+ is either a rapidly-growing success story or a “ghost town,” depending who you ask. Understandably, Google itself puts a positive spin on this issue: back in January, Google CEO Larry Page said Google+ had attracted 90 million registered users, up from 40 million in the first half of October, and that number has since grown to 170 million -- the kind of meteoric growth curve one expects from a popular, burgeoning social media platform.
The only problem is that very few of these registered users are active on Google+, judging by data from some other sources. Also back in January, comScore reported that PC users who visited Google+ spent an average of three minutes per month on the site from September to January. And now a new batch of measurements from RJ Metrics, first reported in Fast Company, cast further light on the platform’s engagement (or lack of it).
According to Fast Company, RJ Metrics surveyed the public activity of 40,000 random Google+ users, and turned up some fairly damning data. For example, the average post had “less than one +1, less than one reply, and less than one re-share.” Furthermore, 30% of users who posted publicly never made another public post; the average time between public posts is 12 days; and people are making fewer public posts over time.
You can probably guess Google’s response to the data published by Fast Company: it’s not representative because it’s only drawn from public activity and thus doesn’t reflect all the non-public activity on Google+. This is a good point, but Fast Company has an equally good rebuttal: well then, why doesn’t Google share some general stats on private activity? Even some very general data on active monthly users would help put the issue to rest, ending speculation based on incomplete information. And again, you can probably guess the reason Google isn’t doing that.