The Five Reasons Why Google Plus is Failing


There are reports that Google Plus may have lost as much as 60% of its active users. If true this would be a terrible blow to the company and especially Larry Page, who has been a big promoter of the network since he took over as CEO. Google have closed down divisions, like Google Labs, in order to focus upon the social network, but it seems that so far the effort has just not paid off for them.

So just where did Google Plus go wrong and what is Facebook doing to win back those users? Over the bump you’ll see my top five reasons why Google Plus is failing:

  1. No Timesink – Easily the biggest mistake that Google have made with Plus is their failure to give users a reason to use it and keep using it. There are minimal games or activities beyond their streams and hangouts. Keeping its users on-site is something that Facebook excels at. Active Facebook users spend more than 15hours per month on Facebook.

    This lack of real timesink activities on Plus has resulted in it feeling empty despite having 50 million users. This is further amplified by the walled garden approach of Google Circles. For instance I have roughly the same number of friends on both Facebook and Plus and Facebook is a constant stream of activity while my Plus stream (All circles plus public) has long periods of no activity.

  2. No Brand Pages – Brands want to be part of social media. They’re hungry for it. Google had the opportunity to embrace that need – and provide their users with much needed additional activities. However, despite pages being rumoured to be forthcoming in July or August they still haven’t happened.

    And worse, those brands that chose to become involved and established personal accounts were actually penalised, their accounts banned. This antagonised early adopters who were eager to be part of the Google Plus Experience and who could have easily been nurtured. Google Plus needs brands more than the brands need Plus. At least as long as Facebook continues to dominate. New kids on the block need to learn to play nice.

  3. Ambiguous Naming Policy – Plus has a policy of allowing only ‘real’ names to be used on their personal accounts. What qualifies as a real name is somewhat nebulous because it doesn’t have to be the name on your passport just one that you are well known by. This ambiguity has led to a lot of bad will for Plus as accounts are banned when Google suspects the user of not using their real name. Some lost access to all their Google facilities (Gmail, Calendar, etc) as a result of the ban. Facebook has a similar heavy-handed approach, but Facebook has always been that way.

    I’ve had a Gmail account since 2004 and a Google Profile since they were released and yet the associated Plus account was banned. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was quoted as saying that Plus was ‘primarily an identity service’. Therein lies the issue.

  4. No Grandmas – A lot of people who initially used Plus no longer do so because none of their friends or family use it. Google’s failure to provide a social network that attracted less technical-savvy users is critical. It’s the biggest difference between Plus and Facebook.
  5. No Heart – I know that I use Facebook to keep in contact with casual friends. I know I use Twitter for conversations and to receive news in almost real time. Unfortunately I don’t know why I use Plus, other than the fact that it’s from Google and they MUST know what they’re doing, right?

    If it were any other company I would have dropped Plus months ago. Plus doesn’t know what it is. It has no reason to exist. It satisfies no need. It lacks a heart and soul.

Ultimately Google Plus feels like it was rushed to release: read-only API, no brand pages, minimal activities, poor mobile implementation. While that might be acceptable in a startup, for a monolith like Google it is a pretty fundamental error.

As for what facebook has done to win back users: almost nothing. They cleaned up their interface and improved streams but pretty much it is business as usual.

Plus has a serious uphill battle in order to survive let alone prevail against the other social networks. And while Plus shouldn’t be a copy of Facebook or Twitter it should at least be emulating them in new and better ways, not worse.

Slider image courtesy of Nima Badiey

About the Author: skribe

Based in Perth, Australia, Antonio Barimen (aka skribe) is a writer, digital media consultant and social media producer.

He is available to help you develop social marketing and digital media strategies, improving communication between staff, partners and suppliers or just increasing the number of fans on Facebook. He has developed successful digital and social media projects for clients including CBS, Evian, Procter & Gamble, Discovery Networks, Pernod Ricard and American Express.

Connect with him on Twitter or Google Plus.
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Post Under Advice, Social Media October 11, 2011

2 Responses to “The Five Reasons Why Google Plus is Failing”

  1. Lee Chen says:

    I too got on board early. It is so dead. Ghost town. No one I know uses it. No one wants to use it.

    People are getting burnt out on twitter and facebook. I know people who are quitting those to free themselves. (College kids, not old people).

    I think there is going to come a social media backlash eventually.

    Facebook will remain the main one, it has entire families on there now staying in touch and is so well established. Google needs to stop trying to be a monopoly.

  2. Martin says:

    I think it’s just us in Australia who it’s dead for. It’s quite good if not for the fact that Australians don’t want to leave the facebook they are familiar with. I have about 4000 people around the world in circles and it’s quite busy. I like that it can display animated gifs in the news feed.