Please stop blaming journalists or measurement firms for the fact that the time spent per visitor numbers on Google+ are so low. You are doing Google a disservice by blowing smoke and telling them that this place is vibrant. I hope they are not listening to you. The folks in Mountain View have done a terrible job marketing Google+ to the world and you need to let them know it. Friends don’t let friends fail to articulate the benefits.
As I understand it, Google aims to own all the world’s data; it wants to use Google+ data to better target ads to consumers. It cannot do that if the only people who are playing here are tech enthusiasts and social media gurus. It needs people of all demographics and psychographics to come, and to stay for a while when they come. Sure, comScore’s panel-based measurement does not represent you. But it does represent people that Google wants and needs to attract. Those people are not sticking. That is a problem for Google (and Google alone) to solve. But you need to remind them.
Some, like Robert Scoble, have said that they would prefer to have Google+ reserved for geeks. On his blog, he wrote,
Google+ is for the passionate users of tech. . . it’s clear Google has turned a corner. They have now proven to everyone that they can do social and get on the playing field.
But they haven’t yet proven that they can convince your mom to use it and that’s just fine with me.
That’s great, Robert. But it’s not fine with Google. It can’t be. When has Google ever been satisfied with a product that only appeals to a niche? Teen bloggers have Google Analytics, and grandparents everywhere have used AdWords. This is the greatest digital advertising platform ever created, and you really think they should be happy with a few thousand actively participating nerds like you and me?
So the latest Wall Street Journal piece, which claims that “Visitors using personal computers spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook each month over the same period, according to comScore,” should be welcomed, not discarded.
No, perhaps you are not well represented in the comScore panel data. Your type would certainly bring up the average somewhat. But there is a group of people who are represented in that sample, and they are not giving Google+ a chance. You can discard that data, or you can do even just a little bit of critical thinking and realize that it tells us something really meaningful—that the average user does not understand why he or she should stay on Google+ and revisit it often. They don’t understand the benefit. They are not like you, but they are important to Google if it wants to win at social media.
To you it appears that Google+ is a vibrant community, a “discovery engine” that has introduced you to dozens or hundreds of new friends who have enriched your lives. But you are making a false assumption that, because you like Google+, everyone will (or should) like it. As they say in Pragmatic Marketing and elsewhere, “your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.” Unfortunately for you, Google has other aims, and they involve getting all of those people who use Facebook for hours every month to spend some of that time (or some additional time) on Google+.
I know you don’t think that Google and Facebook are competing, and maybe they aren’t. But there are only 24 hours in a day, and Google needs some of those hours. It needs the masses, the sheeple whom you so despise. Otherwise Google+ will not be what Google has intended it to be. It may remain a cute little place for nerdy discussion, but it will lose strategic influence in Mountain View and will become marginalized. I’m sure that is not what you want.
So what do you need to do? Stop worrying about it, because I think Google will figure this out. But, in the mean time, you want journalists to stop saying that Google+ is dead? You want comScore to stop recording data that shows low engagement?
Well, first, stop telling everyone that everything in the world of Google+ is fine. You can be elitist and not see the problem—and just accept that there will be negative reviews—or you can acknowledge the problem and help to change it.
Second, articulate the benefits of Google+ to your friends. Not your nerdy friends, but the guy across the hall or the lady who serves you coffee. Don’t just list a bunch of nifty features. “It has hangouts!” is not a benefit. How does Google+ improve your life? Share that with the people around you.
Slowly, they will begin to adopt it. They will learn tips from you that will help them see why Google+ offers unique benefits. They will download the app to their phones. They will start to tell their friends. I’m sure you can see where I am going with this. The comScore data will literally change, and there won’t be a story for the Wall Street Journal to write.
And maybe Google will do itself a favor and begin to market this thing correctly.