Since its launch in mid 2011 Google+ has failed to measure up to the predictions that many made about it being a contender with the social media giant Facebook. Changes to the site early on had many users talking about Google having gone live with it before it was ready, and the slow sign up rate of new memberships has seen it floundering, with many online commentators calling the site a ghost town. On the other side of the coin, internet marketers are still interested in Google+, with two thirds of businesses planning to use it more in the coming year1.
As a part of their plan to compete in the social sphere, Google have tried to make Google+ more attractive to businesses by giving shares and +1s more consideration in the search engine rankings to make using the site a good SEO practice. This translates to higher visibility, and therefore, more customers. All of this raises the question of whether businesses should be using Google+ for more of the internet marketing that they do.
It has been almost a year since the launch of Google+, and in that time it has grown to almost 100 million users, while in the same time Facebook increased its own membership by twice that rate. Newcomer Pinterest, with a much less sophisticated page format based on posting and re-posting, or “pinning”, images, has gained almost 12 million in only a couple of months2. New users aren’t exactly flocking to Google+ to sign up, and the members that are signed up to the site aren’t engaging with it at the same level that they use Facebook or Twitter.
Engagement on the site has become a major issue for some observers with a recent study showing that the average post on Google+ has less than one reply and less than one re-share, and that almost one third of users are making more than one public post while the numbers after five posts drop off to one in six who continue to post on the site3. Worse yet, there is an average of twelve days between users making posts, and thus the involvement in the site gradually dwindles. At the same time, Facebook has continued to grow at an almost alarming rate, with 2.7 billion likes every day and 20% of all page views on the internet being on Facebook4.
As a social media marketing platform Google+ is a long way behind Facebook, but it has the SEO advantage of being integrated with the largest search engine on the internet. It may be that the real value of Google+ is as a tool for building good SEO, as the links from Google+ users have been linked to improved rankings in the SERPs by many search engine marketers. At the same time, social media links from other sites has been shown to also improve a page’s rank, so it may still not be enough incentive to attract much of the internet marketing traffic to the site.
In the end most people, especially busy people that are trying to run a business, have only got a limited amount of time to devote to social media marketing. Having invested a lot of time in their Facebook or Twitter brand pages it seems unlikely that many businesses will now duplicate that effort for a much smaller player like Google+, at least not without the promise of their valuable time and resources having an equally lucrative return. So unless they come up with something new and exciting, it doesn’t seem like Google’s foray into social media is going to be a contender for a while yet.
1. 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, Michael A Stelzner, Social Media Examiner