9 reasons (and stats) brands should NOT be using Google+

Last week this Fast Company article laid out what I’ve been suspecting for quite some time (along with a lot of other people according to feedback on Twitter): That Google+ is a ghost town.

Sure, it might have 170 million users. But, how many of those are actively engaged on the platform each day? Who knows–Google won’t tell us.

They might have 400 million users by the end of 2012. But, how many of those have been virtually “forced” to sign up via signing up for Gmail?

My point? Google+ has the “numbers” in some cases. But, a whole different set of numbers tells an entirely different story–especially for brands looking to play on the platform.

1: It’s not addictive for users (As of January 2012, American users spent an average of 3.3 minutes on Google+ – eMarketer)

2: There are limited audiences really using the tool (Two of the biggest user groups on Google+ are college students and software developers – Remcolandia)

3: Don’t trust the Google Super-Hype machine (Google+ is expected to attract 400 million users by the end of 2012 – Remcolandia)

4: Virtually no engagement between useres (According a RJM report, the average post on Google+ has less than one +1, less than one reply, and less than one re-share)

5: No return engagement among users (Roughly 30% of users who make a public post never make a second one)

6: People aren’t hanging out there consistently (Among users who make publicly viewable posts, there is an average of 12 days between each post)

7: It’s still not addictive enough (According to ComScore, non-mobile visitors to Google+ spent an average of roughly three minutes on the network per month, between the months of September and January, compared with nearly SEVER HOURS per month on rival Facebook during the same timeframe)

8: Google’s stuffing the stat sheet (Google makes it mandatory to join Google+ when you register for a Gmail account which really amounts to it being a forced membership)

9: Embarrasingly low engagement (Users spend 3 minutes per month on Google+ compared to Facebook at 405 minutes – in fact Google+ is less than MySpace in terms of time spent on site)

What do you think? Is Google+ a viable options for brands in terms of social media marketing? Or, do the numbers paint too bleak a picture?

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21 comments on “9 reasons (and stats) brands should NOT be using Google+

  1. DannyBrown says:

    They’re a hype machine blowing invisible smoke to cover visible cracks. Or something like that. 😉

  2. DannyBrown says:

    They’re a hype machine blowing invisible smoke to cover visible cracks. Or something like that. 😉

  3. DannyBrown says:

    They’re a hype machine blowing invisible smoke to cover visible cracks. Or something like that. 😉

  4. Good reasons to carefully consider joining any social network – what really is your return on investment? Seriously, how many social networks do we need and does it dilute our value if we are simultaneously exposed on every one of them?

  5. arikhanson says:

     @DannyBrown An invisible Google Smoke Monster?

  6. arikhanson says:

     @Todd Brockdorf Exactly. But more so with G+ given all the chatter/hype.

  7. DannyBrown says:

     @arikhanson I read an interview with Larry Page in the Telegraph over in the U.K. He was berating the likes of Facebook for building walled gardens and closing down the ‘net.
    Right. Because forcing people to sign up for a service they’ll never use, and to only truly be able to use your products when they’re interconnected with each other with Google+ isn’t?
    That’s their biggest problem – they’re trying to force social and it doesn’t work that way.

  8. wmwebdes says:

    Hi Arik
    Got the heads up on your article from Danny B on… Facebook.
    I nearly signed up in order to use a review plugin and get my avatar and a few shiny gold start in the SERPS.
    Another example of “forcing people to sign up.”
    Looks as though I won’t be bothering.

  9. MattLaCasse says:

     @DannyBrown @arikhanson Good points/stats, Arik. Enjoyed the read. I think we can safely say that G+ is turning into a niche network. It’s popular with select users. I do think that it has two (no pun intended here) pluses to it that keep it from being irrelevant. 1) The hangout feature. I’ve seen firsthand how this tool is capable of changing broadcast news. Pulling people from all of the world to report on the news in their neighborhoods. It’s really interesting stuff. 2) Because of the emphasis Google places on G+ posts in search results, it still has SEO value. Not much, perhaps, but enough that I don’t think it’s worth completely ignoring. Yet.

  10. GnosisArts says:

    Not so fast. I have to respectfully disagree with your conclusion here. I was not a G+ user until last week. I didn’t want to get on it. I had no desire to digest yet another SoMe site. Our firm has found the sites that work best and deliver the best ROI for us (Twitter, FB and Linkedin). So we limit ourselves due to limited time and resources to focusing on these three.
    Up until last week, I would have agreed with you, hook, line and sinker. You couldn’t have convinced me the G+ had any real marketing value for our firm.
    However, I noticed something last week that began to influence my opinion away from this. We utilize Google Apps Gmail as well as several regular gmail accounts, as a CRM service. Roundabout last week, we started to notice increased integration between Gmail and G+. We run a press release submission service that collects user contact info. When we input this contact into into our gmail, it now shows us the social media footprint of the new customer. It includes their alternate emails, the main websites they own, relevant images, just a wealth of consumer data that can be used for marketing purposes. It tells us where they are in G+, and gives us another avenue by which to connect to them. G+ gives us the ability to chat with them via text message, or via IM, start a Hangout and invite our users to join in to a live videoconference of sorts, comment on posts they’ve made on other G+ integrated sites, etc.We can add them to custom Circles, which helps with segmenting our customers on a more granular level.
    There are just a range of marketing and PR uses for the G+ platform. We’ve just started exploring the possibilities, so we’re noobs and don’t know all what it can do yet.
    But all this is tremendously valuable, at least on the face of it, for brands. In fact, I am beginning to believe that G+ is going to be a game-changer for brand marketing. And this, coming from a staunch opponent of it up until last week.
    Eric Bryant
    Gnosis Media Group

  11. arikhanson says:

     @GnosisArts Interesting, but doesn’t all that assume the folks you’re targeting are actually using G+ regularly? The data I’ve seen recently tells me not many people are using it regularly. So, while the additional contact/social info might be helpful, what good is it on G+ if the user isn’t actually using it? And, if you want more complete info on folks you’re sending emails to, you can always try Rapportive–it’s been hugely helpful.

  12. ShellyKramer says:

     @MattLaCasse I agree with you, Matt. I don’t care what the user base is – I think there is some potential SEO value and some of the benefits, like Hangouts, are and can be really awesome. Plus, I love the content I discover there – and it’s not a ghost town at all – at least my experience isn’t that it is. It is hard for me to get there – I spend a lot of time on other social networks, but when I am there, I really love it. Time will, ultimately, tell. But I think that for me anyway it’s too early to call anything ‘dead’ or a complete waste of time. Frankly, I hear that about LinkedIn all the time, and it’s one of the best social networks out there.
    Great post, though @arikhanson – and we’ll see what happens, for sure, one way or the other.

  13. GnosisArts says:

     @arikhanson Thanks for the like, Arik. I thought the same thing, too, that it all assumes that the folks we’re targeting are actually using G+. But only partly. The G+ /Gmail integration is becoming more robust by the hour. I swear, every time we go into Gmail for something, G+ seems to have added a new helpful feature. Now when we put the person into our CRM, G+ tells us whether they’re already using it or not. If they are not, we can be proactive and invite them into our Circle  (which I like to refer to as “our magnetic field of marketing orbit”). This has been helpful to G+, obviously. But more importantly, it has been helpful to us. Some of our users will not respond to a simple email confirmation that their press release is live, or an email letter asking them for a customer survey. Some just plain won’t respond to email or a phone call from a staff member. Yet, they will respond to a G+ Invite (strange, I know). They’ll reply to a question or comment posed to them on G+, when they won’t anywhere else. This lets us know a little bit about the “status” of our users. We know if they are alive and well, and just ignoring us via email, as opposed to just simply not getting any message from us at all. This has value.
    G+ also has another helpful little feature: SMS notification. So, when I add/invite someone to be a part of my Circle, then when they respond, G+ sends me a text message the moment they “enter into the orbit”. I’d say roughly 35% of the folks we’ve invited into our orbit – and who would not respond to us via any other channel – have actually joined our orbit. Of those, about 10% have started a conversation with us.
    I guess my point is: G+ has some power to motivate conversation with our customers, in a way that the more traditional media of email or phone, does not. Not sure why, but I believe it has a lot to do with the ubiquitous nature of Google and Gmail.
    I would agree with you, though, that people are probably not using G+ regularly. Neither are we! I, for example, still only get on it if someone talks to us there. Not like Twitter or FB, where I’ll get on more or less daily.

  14. JohnNemoPR says:

    I love 

  15. JohnNemoPR says:

    I’d agree @arikhanson that certainly G+ isn’t exploding right now, but I do think brands (personal or otherwise!) should be on there and active for a couple reasons. First, you can be a big fish in a small pond, and dominate in terms of the folks you do capture and engage with. Let’s face it – there isn’t a ton of competition right now for the reasons you outlined. Still, there are MILLIONS of prospects out there whom you can reach – and most of your competitors aren’t bothering with that audience right now!
    Also, I think Facebook is in trouble. Mainly due to Mobile – more than 50 percent of FB users access the site via mobile devices, yet Facebook still has a clunky Mobile App and hasn’t figured out a great way to integrate advertising into its Mobile experience.
    That leaves the door open for other networks (i.e. Google+) with a better Mobile platform/user experience to start siphoning off that advertising money and (more important) winning over new users with a better mobile experience.
    If Facebook doesn’t get its act together on Mobile, somebody (maybe Google+, maybe someone else) will emerge and fill that void via a fantastic Mobile-friendly Social Network. Sure it will take time, but you see how fast it can happen and also how fast a social site can go the way of MySpace.

  16. DannyBrown says:

     @JohnNemoPR  @arikhanson Good points, though Facebook Photo may just surprise some people. 😉

  17. DannyBrown says:

     @ShellyKramer  @MattLaCasse  @arikhanson Didn’t someone important quit LinkedIn recently..?

  18. MattLaCasse says:

     @DannyBrown  @ShellyKramer  @arikhanson That may very well be. I hadn’t heard that news, but it also wouldn’t surprise me. I like LinkedIn, but I don’t participate a whole lot.

  19. Nikki Little says:

     @ShellyKramer Agree with the points Shelly and @MattLaCasse are making. I’m so torn on G+, but the recent addition of G+ Local is making it more intriguing and proving Google will continue pouring more horsepower into the G+ initiative.

  20. AdamBritten says:

    What if your target market is college students or software developers? (who you have identified as larger groups on G+.) Seems like you are painting with a broad brush – I’m sure there are some brands that are thriving on G+ and actually getting more out of it than this list would make you believe.
    (That being said, I think resources are better spent on other platforms, but that’s just my target.)