Five reasons Google+ gets less love from brands

Eight out of ten users agree: Google+ is cooler than Facebook. Okay, maybe that statistic is pulled out of thin air. After all, 67% of statistics are made up on the spot. From my personal experience in talking with average everyday people to hardcore tech enthusiasts, Google+ is a pretty rad place.

Launched in June 2011, the social network quickly grew from obscurity to invites being sold on eBay. Since then, many things have changed. Talks of a “ghost town” still pop up here and there, but Google helped put those claims to rest in December 2012, revealing there were 135 million active users in the stream.

More recently, a new design rolled out, emulating the undeniable beauty of the mobile app. While Google is many months behind announcing the latest numbers, when the time comes, I think a lot of people will be surprised. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Twitter has lost the number two spot.

But that’s neither here nor there. While many enjoy Google+ and its navigation free of ads, the platform is still struggling with brands. Recently, a survey by Reuters found that around 40% of brands have never posted, or don’t post consistently. One of the reasons mentioned is that there’s not enough “creative options for brands to be able to marshal a lot of resources and activity around it”.

On Facebook, you can create custom tabs that can contain anything from email subscription forms to exclusive content that’s unlocked when someone “likes” your page. With Google+, well, what you see is what you get.

Around this same time last year, I did some research of my own. Using a tool to see how active (or inactive) pages were, I put together two circles with over 1000 brands. Among the results, 36% of brands hadn’t posted in the last 30 days. So I really don’t question the validity of Reuters’ findings.

Why are so many brands not actively using Google+ or not using at all?

There are many reasons. The first is established dominance. When it comes to advertising on the web and via mobile, Google is one of the first companies that comes to mind. It is the leader in the marketplace, and where over 90% of its revenue comes from. On the social networking front? Facebook and Twitter hands down.

Secondly, it’s all a numbers game. While there are many opportunities to be had on Google+ if brands would just get off their ass and focus on finding answers versus making excuses, Facebook and Twitter boast big numbers. Facebook has over 1 billion active users, while Twitter is pushing a quarter of that. Combine that with the shit storm that Google+ faces in the media, and you’ve got a recipe for no love.

Unfortunately, we live in a society dictated by numbers. Unless it has to do with weight or criminal acts, the bigger the number, the better. Despite thousands of social media professionals preaching quality over quantity, brands need want big numbers to justify their efforts. If you’re a smaller business, hopefully you don’t have to adhere to such a flawed standard.

Thirdly, Google+ has a “why” problem. As far as why people should use the social network, there’s no really solid answer. Honestly, we didn’t need it in the first place. The only truly unique feature it brings to the table is dead simple (free) group video chat, and that still isn’t unique in of itself. Matt Asay wrote a great piece over on ReadWrite about this “why” problem.

“So what did Google do? It invented Google+ as "a way for Google to get to know [its] users," according to David Glazer, director of engineering for the Google+ platform. This is fine, so far as it goes, but this speaks to Google+'s value for Google, not its users.”

Clearly though, there is value depending on who you speak to. People like Aaron Wood have reached new audiences like never before, connecting with people worldwide, and brands like Red Bull have managed to further dominate on yet another platform.

Fourthly, why change what’s already working? Many brands are already satisfied with their efforts on other platforms. They’re getting thousands of likes or shares, maintaining hundreds of thousands of followers, and dealing with loads of attention. Adding another platform to the mix would “spread themselves too thin”. However, these are the same companies who immediately jumped on Pinterest and Vine without fully vetting them out.

Fifthly, they believe reports without due diligence. According to Nielsen, the average U.S. visitor spent under seven minutes on Google+ in March 2013, compared to more than six hours on Facebook. Immediately, that spells a major waste of time for brands. However, when you consider that at Google I/O SVP of Engineering Vic Gundotra announced “more than half of all sharing is done to private circles”, you start to question just how accurate these findings really are.

Whether brands hop on board or not, it really doesn’t matter since Google doesn’t need to plaster the social network with billions of dollars in advertising unlike Facebook. More active brands would give it more street cred, but the current generation of rabid fans are helping to keep things moving along.

The way I see it is simple: If you’ve done the research, put in the effort, and applied effective tactics, only to find your audience isn’t on Google+, fine. It is what is is. However, if you’ve quickly bought into the media’s findings, swallowing whatever is fed to you, and furthering the myth of a ghost town, stop kidding yourself. Google+ has proven valuable to many, and yes, Google does still have a ton of work to do in making the platform more valuable to existing and new users alike.

But claiming that a platform has no value to you after spending eight minutes on it one boring Saturday afternoon, is a bit like saying sex is boring. No, you just suck at it.

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