February 28, 2012, 4:14 PM — If the latest comScore data about social networks reflects anything close to reality, Google+ is shaping up as a dismal failure.
I know, Google would tell us its social networking service can't be judged solely using traditional Internet traffic and engagement metrics because Google+ also benefits other Google services, blah blah blah.
Still, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
Visitors using personal computers spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook each month over the same period, according to comScore, which didn't have data on mobile usage.
Can you even call three minutes a month "social"? Or networking? That's just MIA. And I don't expect that mobile usage data would change the picture much.
The WSJ and The Atlantic offer several reasonable theories as to why the vast majority of the 90 million people who joined Google+ hardly ever log on, including the botched roll-out, privacy snafus, or simply, as analyst Brian Solis tells the WSJ, "Nobody wants another social network right now."
More precisely, no one wants another social network that isn't somehow different and better than Facebook. And what makes Facebook so great for people who are into it?
I wrote about this last October, when the initial surge of interest in Google+ was cooling off:
The real reason Google+ is having trouble maintaining traffic and repeat visits is simple: Most users' friends and family aren't using the social networking platform.
And that's because they're all on Facebook. So if a Google+ user's goal is to interact with friends or family online, they are much better off (at the moment) relying on Facebook, much as a person seeking to auction an item online is better off using eBay -- because that's where the action is.
I really think the comparison to eBay is valid because eBay's big advantage early on was that it hosted more online auctions than any other site. Where else would you want to buy or sell an item?
Similarly, Facebook already has a huge inventory of the item most valued by users of social networking sites -- people they know with whom they can be social, along with a relatively simple interface. Even its frequent stumbles haven't undermined Facebook's immense early advantage over Google+.
Google says it is taking the long view with Google+. One would hope so, because the short-term view is unappealing indeed.