How time flies and how things change in one year alone. Remember June 2011? Social media pundits and experts were abuzz with the launch of the brand new Google+ platform, which was by invitation only during its first three months of existence. When it became open to public later on in September, some of the steam had already come off and brands were wondering if and when they would get their shot at hosting pages, just like they can do on Facebook. This became reality late October and since then, well, everybody is still trying to figure out what to make of Google+…
Quantity vs Quality
There are an estimated 170 million users on Google+ and this figure is expected to reach 400 million by end of 2012, making it the third most popular network after Facebook and Twitter. In theory. Yet, this is a distorted comparison as Google itself claims Google+ is NOT a social media per se. If anything, Google+ is integrated within the Google offer and is now becoming the spine of its sophisticated search engine. Herein lies the biggest concern with Google+: most people prefer to see it like just another social media channel, meaning you have to manage content, pictures, links as you would with your Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn or Pinterest accounts. And as such, it’s hard to justify since users ain’t spending much time on it!
Time Spend by Average Social Networking User per month
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FastCompany recently ran a story on this very topic, referring to a study by RJ Metric, sampling 40,000 randomly selected Google+ accounts. The findings were disarming:
- The average post on Google+ has less than one +1, less than one reply, and less than one re-share
- Roughly 30% of users who make a public post never make a second one
- Even after making five public posts, there is a 15% chance that a user will not post publicly again
- Among users who make publicly viewable posts, there is an average of 12 days between each post
- After a member makes a public post, the average number of public posts they make in each subsequent month declines steadily, a trend that is not improving
If you have a G+ account, do you recognize yourself in these stats? Is this something you also find if you host a G+ brand page?
Focus on the benefits
Thus measuring time spent and user engagement reflects poorly on the benefits of Google+ which are really all about one key thing: search. Search engine optimization for any given site has always been important and it’s becoming even more so with the constant updates being made by Google, Yahoo and Bing, both on the web and the mobile web. Not to mention the increasing trend where social, local and mobile are morphing into one big platform where reaching and engaging with customers will be the utmost challenge. Posting on a Google+ brand page helps your rankings, in particular as Google rolls out more changes with regards to travel search, Places, Maps and other integration projects yet unannounced.
Beyond the search benefits, there are many companies that have shown great examples of how to make the most of features of the G+ platform. Hangouts, for example, can be a great way to connect with your brand advocates, host a discussion between a senior management member of the organization answering questions from the public, or to launch a product with a different spin. And then of course is that fact that since Youtube is part of the Google family, any improvements in getting more user engagement may cross-pollinate from one platform to the other. Or so we hope…
What will it take to adopt Google+ ?
I have attended various webinars in past weeks with high profile speakers such as Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki advocating the benefits of Google+. They make a compelling case. So why is it that nobody seems to be really jumping onboard? In a recent analysis conducted with the 22 tourism destination offices in the province of Quebec, Canada, I found that close to 84% of them either had an account, or intended to have one by end of 2012. But when you look at their account activity, most have not posted fresh content since February or March 2012. Is the Canadian Tourism Commission doing better? Last post dates back to February 22nd, 2012. How about BrandUSA? Nothing since November 16th, 2011. And these are leaders within the travel industry, which has embraced all things social media in order to leverage its benefits to engage with clients, communities, employees and stakeholders alike.
In other words, most organizations seem to acknowledge the fact that Google+ should be part of an effective social media strategy for a brand wishing to strive online. But few actually include it formally in their editorial calendar or fail to integrate it as part of their ongoing efforts. It certainly would come in handy if Google provided an API so that folks who manage various accounts via Hootsuite, TweetDeck or similar dashboards could synchronize messages to G+ as well (It does exist right now, but only at Enterprise levels with pro subscriptions and chosen platforms). But until that day comes, what will it take for brands and individuals to fully embrace Google+?