How is Google+ doing? Not so well, according to a new study

how is google doing not so well according to a new study googleplusAdmit it: You signed up for Google+ back when it was launched but have pretty much forgotten about it ever since, haven’t you? The curiosity and excitement of the idea of a new social network made it seem like a good idea at the time, but then you realized that you didn’t really want another social network, especially one that your friends weren’t on, and suddenly Google has to deal with surveys like the new one from RJMetrics that demonstrates just how much of a ghost town the new network seems to have become.

RJMetrics’ analysis looked at the public timelines of 40,000 randomly selected Google+ users to track just how successful the burgeoning “social spine” of Google is after Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra announced last month that the network had more than 170 million users (To put that in some context, Twitter claims around 140 million active users). The results suggest that, even if that many people have signed up for the service, they don’t appear to be actually using it. By the numbers:

  • The average Google+ post has less than one +1 vote, less than one reply, and less than one share.
  • There is an average of twelve days between publicly-viewable posts from users surveyed.
  • 30 percent of users who make a public post never make another, with users who make do multiple posts seeing a monthly reduction in the number of public posts on an ongoing basis. According to RJMetrics, “[e]ven after making five public posts, there is a 15% chance that a user will not post publicly again.”

That last point is something that should worry Google. Unpacking it, it turns out that, while there is a 70 percent chance that users will make a second public post, the social stickiness of Google+ starts to fall far behind other social networks soon afterwards: “We typically expect to see the probability of repeat posts shoot up to well north of 90% by the time the user has made several posts. This is basically the “once you’re using it you’re hooked” principle,” writes RJMetrics’ Robert Moore, “[but] with Google Plus, however, this number never crosses the 90% mark. Even after having made five such posts, the chance of making a sixth is only 85%.” Without this number improving, Google+ runs the risk of remaining an also-ran in the social space, and another example of a Google failure when it comes to trying to improve the social nature of their services (Hands up who remembers “Google Wave“?).

It’s possible that the disappointing figures are due to users preferring private posts to public; RJMetrics suggests this as a possibility but points to the disappointing nature of the +1, reply and share figures as proof of the opposite: “These public posts will still be visible to each member’s private networks, and actually could attract +1s, shares, and replies from external users as well. If anything, we would expect our numbers here to be higher than in the general population.” Instead, each post got an average of 0.77 +1s, 0.54 replies and a truly worrying 0.17 reshares.

These figures suggest that Google might want to think about rethinking Google+ in some way, and making it so that the 170,000,000 people who have signed up might actually want to start using it. Perhaps they should theme it around pins. That seems to be what the kids are into these days

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