Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why the Google+ Nansayers Are Wrong

On 19 January of this year Google CEO Larry Page announced that Google's social networking site had 90 million users. This week it appears that Google+ has broken 100 million users. One would think that most in the media would then consider Google+ to be a roaring success. Amazingly enough this is not the case, as there are still a few in the media who either think Google+ has been a failure or they think it is destined to fail.

A prime example of this is an article in The Register, "Google+ funny numbers mask falling growth," in which the author claims that Google is cooking the books to prove Google+ has been successful. Gawker in an article entitled "Google Resorts to Shamelessly Whoring Out Brad Pitt for Google Plus" (I apologise for the language--their words, not mine) refers to Google+ as "the Antarctica of social networks" and claims Google+ hasn't "...turned out to be the runaway success they wanted it to be." The Gawker article even referred to Google+'s users as "weirdos (perhaps I should not mention how unprofessional that is)." An article in The Daily Mail entitled "Is Google the Next Dinosaur" claims that "Google Plus is hardly a lively place." Unlike The Register and Gawker, The Daily Mail does back its words up with an Associated Press report that stated, "About 80 percent of Plus users visit the service at least once a week, according to Google. The company is trying to increase the frequency by including recommendations about Plus accounts in its search results, a recent change that has raised questions about whether Google is abusing its position as the Internet’s leading gateway to unfairly promote its own services over its rivals."

Of course, there was a time that such articles were much more common. When Google+ first launched in June it seems most press outlets were predicting its swift demise. Indeed, the media really did have good reason to expect Google+ to fail. Google's previous social networking efforts, Google Wave and Google Buzz, were not merely failures, they were colossal flops. There was little reason for anyone to expect that Google+ would be any different. One could not really blame the various media outlets for doubting that Google+ would be successful. That having been said, by November it should have been apparent to most in the media that not only had Google+ proven successful, but it was not going to be the flop that either Google Wave or Google Buzz were.

Indeed, as someone who has been on Google+ since early July, I can say that it is a very active site, hardly the "Antarctica of social networks" the Gawker article claims. At the moment 1249 people have me circled (the Google+ equivalent of following on Twitter or subscribing on Facebook). On Facebook I only have 470 friends (I don't allow subscribers) and on Twitter I only have 426 followers. What is more, new people circle me almost every day and certainly every week. Compare this to Facebook, on which I had my first friend request this week in about three months.

Not  only do new people seem to be joining Google+ constantly,  but it seems to me that my Google+ stream is often busier than my Facebook news feed. Some might claim this is natural as I have over double the number people circled on Google+ than I have friends on Facebook, but I tend to doubt that. If that was the case one would think my Google+ stream would only be double that of my Facebook news feed. Instead, I swear at time that it is at least three times busier. Not only does it seem to me that people post to Google+ at least as much as Facebook (and I suspect much more), but  the posts on Google+ seem to receive much more in the way of comments than those on Facebook. Now part of that may be explained by the possibility that many, perhaps most, people often use Facebook passively (simply "liking" a post rather than saying anything about it), they tend to use Google+ actively (actually commenting on posts). Even if that is the case, that would seem to argue that Google+ has a greater level of interaction than Facebook, more proof that it is hardly a site that is not lively.

Of course, there is that Associated Press article cited by The Daily Mail article that states that about 80% of Google+ users visit it at least once a week. Ironically, if The Daily Mail intended this as evidence that Google+ is not active, then they sadly failed. I have to point out that the key words in the Associated Press are at least. That is, about 80% of Google+ users visit the site at least once a week. The Associated Press article says nothing about how many visit the site more than once a week or even daily. While I have no statistics right at hand, I do have my own experience on Google+, so I can say with some accuracy that a fairly large number of people I have circled visit the site each and every day.  Others may visit Google+ only a couple of times a week, while yet others may only visit once a week.  Indeed, it seems to me that this level of activity on Google+ is more or less the same level of activity that I see on Facebook as well. At any rate, neither Google+ nor Facebook are MySpace (truly and sadly the Antarctica of social networks).

Given the number of people who have me circled on Google+, a number which grows everyday, and the number of posts made to Google+ everyday, not to mention the comments on those posts, I can only conclude that anyone who insists that Google+ is not active is dead wrong. Given that Google+ is very active, it seems to me that it can also be concluded that Google+ is not a failure. If no further proof is needed of Google+'s success, one need look no further than Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, who in Facebook's initial public offering acknowledged Google+ to Facebook as a serious rival, alongside Microsoft and Twitter.

Why then are people still writing articles claiming Google+ is a failure? I suspect one reason lies in the fact that Google is one of the largest internet search service and one of the largest internet based companies in the world. Google is ubiquitous on the Web. Such overwhelming success, which in Google's case almost amounts to a monopoly on internet searches (there is Yahoo and Bing, but they are used much less often than Google), often breeds contempt in certain individuals. And such contempt often manifests itself in such individuals hoping that Google will fail at some point. I might also add that the sad fact is many media outlets believe bad press outsells good press. They (although mistakenly, in my opinion) believe that they will get more readers if they knock Google+ than if they are honest about how well it is really doing.

Another possible reason I think that people are still writing claiming that Google+ is a failure is that they simply are not doing their research. Given the claim of some that Google+ is not active, that almost no one posts to it, et. al., I have to wonder if they have even registered at Google+ and used it. Obviously, if one has not registered to Google+, then he or she has no first hand knowledge of how active Google+ really is. It would amount to me claiming that no one ever posts to Pinterest and it is destined to fail. How would I know? Why should anyone believe me? I'm not even registered at Pinterest and but rarely visit the site!

As to those who have registered at Google+ but still claim it is failing (not many I would assume), I have to wonder if they bothered circling anyone when they joind  or if they simply sat there waiting for someone to circle them? Google+ is like Twitter. If you don't follow anyone, chances are that no one will follow you. And, of course, if you're not following anyone, you won't see any tweets and you will have no idea how busy Twitter actually is. Obviously, if one has registered at Google+ and one has not circled anyone, then he or she will see no posts and will have no idea how busy the site actually is. To put it another way, it is like going on Facebook and not adding any friends! Imagine how dead one's news feed would be?

In the end I am not sure how important Google's claim that Google+ has 100 million users is, as the site seems to be busy regardless (100 million users is useless if no one is posting).  It certainly is not failing,  not unless my Google+ stream is the only one filled with posts every day.  Those who continue to insist that Google+ has failed or that it will go the way of the dinosaurs seem to me to either be intentionally ignoring the facts or simply have done so little research that they are not aware of them. Indeed,  I have to wonder that if Google+ does surpass Facebook's 845 million users if they won't still be claiming it has failed. I rather suspect that they will.


Raquel Stecher said...

I love Google+. In fact, I wish they would add some more features so I can displace Facebook entirely. My only beef with Google is the fact that Google+ pages aren't up to snuff. You can't add anyone to your circle as a Brand unless they've already added you. What if Twitter told brands, you can't follow those people until they follow you first? It wouldn't work! I wish Google+ profiles and pages were identical in function. Because I think Google+ overall is great! If they keep working on it and improving it, it will be even better.

I also like that you can edit your posts. Why won't Facebook add that as a feature? I don't understand!

Terence Towles Canote said...

Quelle, I have to agree with you about the brand/artist pages on Google+. I would actually use my writer's page a lot more if it had more features and I could actually circle people before they circle me! I suppose that all we can do is provide Google with feedback so that perhaps they will improve them!

I'm like you as far as the edit feature. I don't understand why Facebook has never had it!