If you’ve had a hard time making heads or tails of Google Plus lately, you’re not alone. Reports earlier this year that Google Plus may have surpassed Twitter to become the #2 social network in the U.S. seemed to justify its inclusion among all social behemoths. Neilsen just released some data from February 2013 (although it appears only Reuters and Mashable were privy) showing that Google Plus time-on-site was up year-over-year 112%. In the same report they show that Facebook’s was down 5.2%.
While those statistics might lead you to suspect that all is peachy with G+, it is not. G+ is up 112% from 3.3 minutes per user per month in 2012 to 6.75 minutes per user per month in 2013. They had 20 million unique mobile users and 28 million unique desktop users. Comparatively, Facebook was down 5.2% from 7 hours nine minutes in 2012 to 6 hours 44 minutes in 2013. Facebook had 99 million unique mobile users and 142.1 million desktop users. Twitter had 29 million unique mobile users and 34 million unique desktop users.
Not a brand issue
In the Reuters story, they point out that pizza company Domino’s hasn’t been keeping their profile current on G+. The point of the story being that brands are driving down G+. Consider this sentence from the story:
“For Google+ to thrive, it is vital to draw in household names.”
That insight couldn’t be further from the truth. Most brands find Facebook to be a horrible marketing partner. I wrote a piece on the Vocus website recently offering some tips on being efficient on Facebook. One of my suggestions? Advertise. My point was that advertising is the only reliable way to get reach on the platform, but that’s a far cry from the initial promise of Facebook as a low-cost marketing opportunity.
My point is that brands are on Facebook because people are on Facebook. The issue with Google Plus isn’t that Dominos doesn’t update its profile, it’s that users don’t engage on the scale or frequency that they do on Facebook or to a lesser extent, Twitter. And brands don’t follow.
The other blind spot that I see in this logic is the assertion that users participate on social platforms to follow brands. They don’t. I started my Facebook account to share baby pictures with my family. My mom started hers to see them. I’ve never heard anyone say that they started using a social network to follow a brand, no matter how stellar their product or social presence is. Unless you think that Google has a capitalization problem and needs these brands for revenue, brand presence is a symptom and not an ail.
Can Google in good conscience integrate Google Plus into its search algorithm?
So, Google Plus isn’t as well-trafficked as many of us thought it was. Does that mean that Google shouldn’t incorporate its social signals into their algorithm? Probably, but only if you make the (ridiculous) assumption that Google’s search engine is intended to find you the perfect result. It isn’t. If conscientiousness drove Google, they should consider social signals from Facebook or Twitter and every other social network.
Long story short – Google can do whatever it wants. And despite weaker than anticipated data for its social network – they can (and will) integrate it with whatever weight they see fit. And if that causes you pain, so be it. And how is that any different from EdgeRank?
Let me know your thoughts.