For years Google was trying to break into the social media scene. They spent time, energy and funds into launching their own versions, which always managed to crash and burn almost as soon as they were released.
Most of us have witnessed these failures first hand, and if you want a refresher course just check out this helpful infographic that illustrated the many attempts. Google has not had the best track record, with their successes usually through purchasing already established sites like YouTube.
When they launched Google+ amongst a huge amount of hype and fanfare, I am sure I was not the only one poised for disappointment. After all, we had been there before and it didn’t tend to be worth the invite to check out the new site. But they managed to get it right this time, and G+ was an immediate hit.
Even with hiccups along the way, such as with privacy issues (this is Google, after all). Now that it is available without an invite, and their services have all been linked through a single login, it has continued to grow in popularity.
So, why do so many people still claim Google+ a failure?
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Statistics?
The biggest complaint most analysts seem to have with Google+ is the numbers. Last year, the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece claiming that the social media site had become a ‘ghost town’, despite their incredibly high user numbers. In fact, the average time spent monthly on G+ was lower than Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Myspace. Ouch!
For those of us who have been paying attention, these accusations are nothing new. In the past analysts have been quick to point out that most of the profiles that are on G+ seem to be inactive, or barely active. In fact, the high user rating might be blamed on the auto-creation through Google Accounts. A point backed up by this report in 2012 that showed how few shares are gathered by G+ compared to other social media sites.
The Way They Failed
I think this gives a strong indication of where Google+ has missed the mark. They never became a social network, and perhaps they didn’t mean to be. It is more a slightly socialized element to a wide array of services. But like so many of their other products, it isn’t actually aimed for the average user. In fact, it is rather inaccessible to the average social user, thanks to a unique but complicated platform design that most just don’t seem to gel with.
That gap is useability is so wide that the Huffington Post last year found that one in three of Google’s employees were inactive on the site. When even the people who work for you aren’t using our product, it is a bad sign.
The Way They Succeeded
After saying all of that, I am not suggesting that Google has actually failed. On the contrary, I think they have made some incredible progress in creating a unique kind of social network. One that is aimed more at the computer and technology enthusiasts and industry leaders than the average Joe. There is also a distinct edge for business use, and with Google Authorship they have made it a must have for the average blogger, as well.
For the first time, Google seems to be playing to their strengths rather than trying to take a bite out of Facebook. They are becoming more established within this niche, and they are surging in popularity as a result. We now include G+ automatically when we name off the major social media sites on the web, which we never would have done before with some of their other attempts.
Has Google+ failed? I suppose it depends on what they were trying to achieve in the first place. If they wanted an open, accessible social platform for all users on the web, then yes, they probably failed.
But if they were trying to make a business, blog and tech geek friendly version of other sites with a unique format, then they succeeded beyond anyone’s hopes. The numbers they provide are still pretty shady, and I don’t think anyone believes them when they talk about their active user base. But I am personally willing to forgive them for their fibs. As long as they never try to bring back Buzz.