Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that things aren't looking so great for Google+. According to data from comScore, Google+'s users spend just about 3 minutes per month on the site. On Facebook, that number is closer to six or seven hours per month. Google itself, however, has never provided anybody with any useful data about the service and – at worst – is just using deliberately misleading information to provide the press with big numbers that look good but are absolutely meaningless.
100 Million "Active" Users?
In January, for example the company's CEO Larry Page said that the site had 90 million users at that time and that "+users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly." That, however, was a pretty misleading statement. While it may sound that Page was saying that 60% of Google+ users come back to Google+ every day, his argument was simply that 60% of those users who signed up for Google+ also use any other Google+ service on a daily basis. Those numbers said absolutely nothing about the engagement Google+ is seeing from its users.
Today, Google's VP for engineering Vic Gundotra – in what is clearly a reaction to the WSJ piece – talked to the New York Times' Nick Bilton and once again used the same kind of tactic. "On a daily basis, 50 million people who have created a Google Plus account actively use the company’s Google Plus-enhanced products, Mr. Gundotra said. Over a 30-day period, he said, that number is 100 million active users." Google+, of course, is now part of virtually every other Google product, including search, which most of the company's users probably use on a daily basis without ever trying to actively engage with the company's social network.
Nice, Meaningless Numbers
Google is obviously trying to paint a nice picture here by using large numbers that, at the end of the day, say nothing about Google+ and how engaged its users are. Maybe things are great at Google+ and it has a huge, highly active community (though most of us aren't seeing it in our own accounts). The problem with this is that unless Google provides us with any concrete data, it just looks as if the company has something to hide.
Let's give G+ a chance. It is too early to make judgement. Google Plus is such a nice social service.
These numbers are only meaningless if you don't take into account Google's long term plan. They are combining all their services into a single product. Imagine for a moment if you use Facebook email. Despite not using FB for social at the moment, when you write or send an email using @facebook.com you are part of the FB usage statistics, and rightfully so. The only difference is FB has this service already incorporated into a single product, its simply a feature. By extension then, in the long term, when Google combines all its services, regardless if you use the G+ element of Google, if you are using any of Google's services you are part of its usage statistics. To separate only the G+ usage would be like separating those users who use FB for games and those who use it to share photos. So while its trendy to compare only G+ usage to FB usage, the big picture really will be Google usage versus FB usage, which means Youtube, Blogger, Gmail, Android, etc. Google's announcements merely contain that vision already.