Since it failed to take off in the months following its record-breaking launch last summer, Google Plus has rapidly become a social media punchline. Earlier this year, Google’s Larry Page reported that the site had amassed 90 million users. A few months later, comScore reported that those 90 million spent, on average, an embarrassingly spare 3.3 minutes per month logged into the social network. Compare this with Twitter’s 21 minutes, Pinterest’s 89 minutes and Facebook’s 405 minutes–figures that would assuredly be even higher had comScore included mobile and tablet usage. Last week, Google’s Amit Singhal, head of the company’s core search (i.e., he writes the formulas that determine which sites appear, and in what order, for every search query) all but said Google Plus content would no longer be prioritized in search results as it had been. Hot on the heels of the recent rumor that all acquisitions related to Google Plus had been halted, the question is not only what exactly is going on over there? but also the broader why isn’t anyone in a Google Plus community engaging?
Take magazines, for example. In the chart below (taken from our Digital IQ Index: Magazines report), you can see that the five largest magazine communities on Google Plus are not only significant in size (1+ million members), most of them dwarf their Facebook equivalents. Of the 80 titles included in the study, 12 maintain larger Google Plus communities than Facebook communities. Even more impressive is that these magazines have built their Google Plus presences in just over six months’ time, as brand pages didn’t launch on the network until November 2011.
Yet, when it comes to engagement, a metric that comScore and others (us, included) believe is far more illustrative than number of fans, there is no competition between the two social networks. For the top 10 Google Plus magazine communities (Nos. 6-10: ELLE, Martha Stewart Living, Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Motor Trend), in terms of both likes and shares, Facebook far outperformed Google Plus.
Social media is all about leveraging a platform to broadcast and share content with interested parties. Yet here, millions of interested parties aren’t getting their fair share of attention. Unlike on Facebook, where brands are conscientious about updating content regularly and engaging meaningfully with fans, on Google Plus, the effort put forth by brands’ page managers is often sporadic and at times, lazy. Just as an example, Glamour, which boasts the largest Google Plus community of all magazine titles with more than 1.3 million members (as of today), posted nothing on its page between August 8-14th. On Facebook during the same seven day period, however, the magazine posted 42 times, every single one garnering hundreds of likes and comments.
It’s hard to know who gave up on Google Plus first, the brands or the fans, but one thing is clear: the “if you build it, they will come” maxim has met its match–in both directions.