Is Google Plus an Empty Hangout?

When faced with a social site that boasts 90 million members, it’s valid to ask what all of those people are actually doing on the site. The answer, it seems, is “not much.” At least, that’s the case when the network is Google+, and the site reporting the activity is comScore.

For myself, I have to admit that I rarely check out my Google+ account anymore. Even Debbie Ohi, a very talented friend of mine who took to the new social site like a duck takes to water, wrote in a public post that “as much as I prefer Google+’s interface to that of Facebook’s, I’m spending way more time on Facebook these days.” One reason for this is that the people she most needs to keep in touch with professionally are on Facebook rather than Google+, and she only has so much time for social media.

She and I are hardly alone. For whatever reason, lots of Google+ users hardly seem to remember the site is there. David Angotti revealed some eye-opening figures on this from digital business analytics site comScore. The report revealed how many minutes per month, on average, users spent on six different social networking sites. While no one will be surprised to hear that Facebook led the pack by a huge margin (close to seven hours per month per user!), you might be interested to hear where the others fell.

Pinterest/Tumblr came in as the next most “sticky” social site, with users spending 98 minutes on average. Next came Twitter, at 21 minutes – a little shorter than a sitcom, which somehow seems about right. LinkedIn users spent 17 minutes per month on the social network known for its dedication to business professionals. Even MySpace, considered a has-been social network by some, enjoys eight minutes per month of participation, on average, from each of its users. So where did Google+ finish?

The search giant’s social network came in dead last – not only behind MySpace, but painfully behind it. On average, Google+ users spend only three minutes per month on the site! After such a promising start, with a nice set of features and an easy-to-use interface that forced Facebook into playing catch-up, why is Google+ being all but ignored by so many of its members?

Part of the problem could be explained by Ohi’s comment: there’s only so much time for online social networking, so users go where the people they most need to contact hang out. But Google also created this problem with a relatively recent change in policy. Angotti reported that “Now, when a new user creates any type of Google account, the system requires that the user register a Gmail account, fill out a Google profile, and join Google+.”

Since these new users may be signing up for some other Google service, and might not be the least bit interested in Google+, this forced sign-up policy could be skewing the figures. While it’s possible, even easy, to delete your own Google+ profile by going to the accounts setting page, it’s likely that many users simply don’t bother doing this. Instead, they just forget the have a Google+ account, or simply ignore the social service completely. You might want to keep this in mind the next time you’re trying to decide how much time to spend on any particular social site networking for your company. Phenomenal growth in membership may be a good thing – but you should be looking at other numbers as well. Good luck!

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