Since its heralded debut in June 2011, Google+ has been the spoiled child at the birthday party – born with a silver spoon and hovering parental support, but the cool kids still don’t want to play with it. Now Big Brother Google is requiring everybody who uses Gmail, YouTube, Zagat or other Google services, to set up a public Google+ page. Well, count me out. When the arm-twisting begins, I take my cupcakes and go home. Just call me a party pooper.
A year and a half ago, I was an early adopter of Google+, drinking the Kool-Aid and eagerly setting up my Circles. When now-defunct Google Wave launched, I refused to wave back. I ignored the pesky Google Buzz as well. So I thought I owed it to Google to opt in to the much-hyped social network that was supposed to rival Facebook in its functionality and user-friendliness. We were going to share photos and thoughts, hang out, group chat and “+1” each other’s posts. It was all hearts and unicorns with ad dollars at the end of the rainbow for Google.
The “Google+ project” was the fastest growing social network in history, amassing 25 million global members in its first five weeks of existence, outpacing the meteoric rise of Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, according to comScore. Usage skewed male and techy, as it does with new digital toys.
I dutifully repurposed content from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to my Google+ page. Facebook was my front porch. Twitter was my cocktail party. LinkedIn was my Rotary Club. All my social needs were met, but I wanted to support Google+. I guess I felt sorry for it. And there’s that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) thing – even though I wasn’t having fun, I didn’t want to miss the party.
Google+ launched brand pages in November 2011, spiking total U.S. visits from 5.1 million in October to 6.8 million in November, with 61 percent of the top 100 global brands represented. For privacy reasons, Google refused to disclose metrics regarding traffic sourced from Google+ to external websites. In other words, hyperlinks embedded in content posted to Google+ generated click-throughs to a brand’s site, but the website visitation wasn’t measurable.
Then it got quiet. You could hear a pin drop on your page. Bime Analytics said 83 percent of Google+ users were inactive. No one was hanging out but the crickets. And even the crickets were bored, spending only three minutes a month on the site, versus 400 minutes a month for the average Facebook user, as reported by comScore in January 2012.
Suddenly, Pinterest burst on the scene, like the Indie film that is promoted solely via word of mouth. And it took off. Moms were pinning at Panera. Teens were pinning from their bedrooms. In fact, predominantly female Pinterest users were spending more time on their Boards than they were on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ combined. Suddenly Pinterest was the fastest social networking site to reach 20 million users, driving referral traffic and e-commerce. Brands like HGTV and Nordstrom embraced the platform, and it blew up. Virally. Like a social network is supposed to. Then Instagram followed suit. And lo, they were fun!
Meanwhile over on Google+, the crickets sighed. There was some data that astronomers used the site a lot. Then there were rumors about SEO torque for brands and again, the dreaded FOMO thing kicked in.
Google’s forced integration has helped increase Google+ usage, according to the Wall Street Journal. In December 2012, Google reported that 235 million people used Google + features, up from 150 million in late June. Google is building a user base in order to leverage future ad sales, even if it has to strong-arm people to do it.
Call it persuasion instead of coercion, if you like. Regardless, this post will be my last to share via Google+. There’s no one in my Circles who can’t find me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – or, wait for it, – in real life. It’s my party, and I’ll leave if I want to.
Image Credit: [cpcstrategy.com]
Laura Mansfield Bower is Senior Vice President and Director of Public Relations and Social Media for The Tombras Group.