Is Google Plus becoming a plus-sized ghost town?

Google Plus came online with widespread optimism with early adopters.

I was among the geeks who received the beta version. In a Google world where search reign supreme, we all thought it would be hugely popular as a terrific alternative to the overly complicated Facebook.

Despite the naysayers, I still remain enthusiastic about the future of Google+. The latest research may prove me wrong, but I am still willing to bet that Google+ will play an important role in the dynamic world of social media and social search.

Check out this post from the London-based Umpf blog that may have me eating crow. I remain a Google+ advocate despite what the most recent research is concluding.

There’s been many articles written about how good, bad and indifferent Google+ is. But our favourite debate is the ongoing It’s Really Popular Vs It’s A Ghost Town one.

So what’s the truth?  Our findings and infographic (see below) appear to suggest the latter: despite its large number of accounts, G+ is bottom of the list of social network users’ favoured channels.

Google, of course, claims it is fast-growing and really popular.  Why wouldn’t they? And, of course, there is research to support that argument. But does this chart, left, for example, which shows the rise in G+ unique visitors, tell the whole truth?

Let’s face it, you don’t actually have to be a G+ user to view a post on G+.  So, there’s every chance that a post uploaded to G+ and then posted on, say, Twitter or Facebook, is being veiwed by hundreds or thousands of people who have never logged in or created a G+ account, nor perhaps never will.

And does this explain why, according to ComScore, G+ users spend just 3.3 minutes per month on the site, compared with 7.5 hours –hours – per month on Facebook? ie is G+ traffic transient, clicking on a link, reading it and moving back to their Facebook/ Twitter stream?

So, we decided to do our own research.  It is by no means exhaustive and is only meant as a snapshot view, so judge for yourself.

Google hasn’t released active user stats or levels of engagement, but they have confirmed on their own blog that there are 170m G+ accounts.  To put that into context, it puts G+ second behind Facebook (901m: recently updated to 955m) and ahead of LinkedIn (161m) and Twitter (140m) in terms of official user accounts (see links below).

If these official user figures are accurate, you might surmise that levels of activity – such as sharing stories, for example – would mirror user stats ie the more users, the more people sharing content on that network.

Not so.

Infographic and research by Umpf social media agency

We analysed 100 random online entertainment, health, business, technology and general news stories and looked at how many times each story was shared by Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter users.

The stories were taken at random by three staff from Umpf using websites including The Independent, Telegraph, Forbes, CBS News, Evening Standard, Mashable and TechCrunch.

The only criteria was that the site had to have a share counter showing all four networks as a minimum.

We then worked out, on an average per user per channel basis, the propensity of a social media user to share a story on either Facebook, G+, LinkedIn or Twitter.

For every 100 million users, the following number were likely to share an online story:

Twitter, 197.3 people were likely to share an online story
Facebook, 41.8 people were likely to share an online story
LinkedIn, 15.2 people were likely to share an online story
Google+, 6.0 people were likely to share an online story

Or, in other words:

LinkedIn is 2.5 times more effective than G+ for sharing
Facebook is 7 times more effective than G+ for sharing
Twitter is 33 times more effective than G+ for sharing

And the absolute irony of all this?  We can’t share our Google+ article and infographic on the Umpf Google+ page.

Why?

Because Google made it so difficult to set up an account in the first place.  Initially, Google required early G+ users to first create a Gmail account before they were allowed to create a G+ account.  We created a Gmail address, didn’t note down what it was, nor did we add a secondary email account on the day we set it up last November.

Because we manage a host of YouTube accounts, once we had logged out of G+ and then tried to log back in, we were locked out.  So there is a Gmail account out there somewhere, lost.

And with it so is our access to G+.  And that about sums up G+.

What do you think about the future of Google+? Are you on Team Google? Or do you think it’ll fade?

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