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Are You There, Google+?

This post was first published by Doug Flora on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

People are saying Google+ is a “ghost town.” While the hyped social network has 170 million members, research has shown that user engagement, especially compared to Facebook, is quite low. In January, comScore found that Google+ users spend an average of just 3 minutes a month on it, compared to 405 minutes for Facebook users.

More recently, RJMetrics looked at a sample of 40,000 Google+ members and determined that when a user makes a first public post, the number of subsequent posts they make in each ensuing month steadily declines. In fact, almost a third of users never make a second post at all. Interaction among users is also very low, with most posts having “less than one +1, less than one reply, and less than one re-share”

Google says it isn’t fair to compare them with Facebook, that the purpose of Google+ is more about its integration with the rest of their applications, and the ability for users to share privately within their circles. Google+ evangelists often cite how good an active account is for SEO, given that Google search results are now personalized, with a direct relationship to who’s in your Google+ circles. However, Google is still reluctant to publicly disclose numbers on user engagement, so it’s difficult to say with certainty how legitimate these kinds of claims are.

So how important is it for your brand to have an active Google+ account? It’s still nebulous. Let’s look at who is using the network. Early adopters were largely young males working in the technology sectors. However, more recently, the vast majority of members are single American students. So while there’s a tendency for companies in the technology and other sectors to maintain more active Google+ pages, and engage with each other, the real benefits are unclear. Despite, of course, simply enjoying Google+. And some people do.

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