This past weekend my daughter Elizabeth graduated from college. She and her friends and roommates have gone their separate ways, but unlike my days as a college grad in the eighties, she has the ability to communicate with her friends every day. And she does. Between Facebook, Twitter, and texting, Elizabeth’s life is a near constant conversation with a group of friends that is scattered all over the place.
The other night she and a few of her friends went online and chatted via a Google + Hangout for awhile and I’m sure they had a great time. But the interesting thing about this group of friends is that the Hangouts are the only reason they are on Google+. They aren’t creating content, reacting to content, or sharing content there. That’s what they do on Facebook, not Google+. In fact, the picture of their hangout that I’m using was shared on Facebook. And my daughter? I just checked, and her last post on G+ was more than six months ago. Pretty much the same for her friends across the board.
In the Social Media Marketing class that I taught at Messiah College this past semester, I made sure my students were aware of, and using, various social platforms. Google + was the least interesting for them, and again, the main draw was the Hangouts. No sharing, no content creation, just hanging out on video with a group of friends.
Late last year, Google rolled out what seemed to be a brilliant campaign to draw users to Google +, with a commercial and video featuring the Muppets using Google Hangouts.
It was a great commercial, and it got people talking, and perhaps, signing up for G+. Google knew that the idea of multiple people conversing via video was a real draw. But I get the feeling that many have showed up for that feature, but haven’t waded into the deeper waters of the platform.
And much of this conjecture is bolstered a bit by the latest research from RJ Metrics as reported in the Fast Company article, New Google+ Study Reveals Minimal Social Activity, Weak User Engagement. While the platform is touting numbers in the 170-million range, many are questioning what those numbers really mean. Compared to other platforms, engagement and activity are on the decline. And if a large number of people, especially younger users, are there solely for the Hangout feature, then we need to reinterpret those numbers.
Google calls G+ a social network. Others say it really isn’t a social network, but that it’s real value lies in its integration with search and SEO. But if many users aren’t posting content, reacting to content, or sharing content, then that won’t be happening either. And while my daughter, and my students are only interested in the Hangouts, I know that some older folks feel the same way; they like the hangouts for business purposes, but aren’t using the other features of the platform.
Now I don’t want to make a bold comparison to MySpace, because I think G+ is very different, but with MySpace, the most important feature, the music interface, dominated the platform. Sadly, MySpace waited too long to realize this, and they became redundant because others could easily replicate and improve upon what they are doing. It wasn’t that unique.
Now, with Google +, one of the best features are the Google Hangouts. It can draw people in, but…it might also be the most easily replicated feature. While others can create similar video chat platforms, it’s the search capabilities of Google and G+ that are not so easily copied. This makes Google+ vulnerable.
If Skype or Facebook (or both, since they have already partnered up), were to come up with a similar product that allowed for multiple people in a video chat, they would slow the number of users migrating to G+ for the Hangouts. Plus, many of those users might prefer to hold their video chats on Facebook where there are already 900-million users, giving Facebook greater “time spent on site” numbers. I’m actually surprised this hasn’t been developed and launched yet.
Google + is vulnerable for a variety of other reasons, and so far, I’m still not seeing large SEO benefits from having my content on G+, and I’m getting far more traffic from most other platforms, including Pinterest. That’s just me. But if the Hangouts can be one-upped elsewhere, we may just see a lot fewer accounts, and a lot less time spent, on Google +.
What are your thoughts? Is this something that Google + should be worried about, and others should be looking at as a way of competing? Now that Google + has been around nearly a year, what are your thoughts on the platform?
- How Will You Use Open Google+ Hangouts? (blogworld.com)
- How Can Non-Profit Organizations Use Google Hangouts Effectively? (donordreams.wordpress.com)
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