There have been countless articles written in over the last year saying that Google+ is a ghost town. It was the hot headline for a while, used by those claiming to have authority in the world of social media. Well, I’m here to put those ghost stories to rest and make sure that these “experts” are shown for what they are– clueless.
I want to debunk these ghost town reports for you because I hate when people are fed misinformation. These failure fairy tales thrive on the limited understanding of the general public and continue to spread ignorance. I think you’re smarter than that, and you deserve better. So here’s my 10 devastating blows to the Google+ Ghost Stories and Failure Fairy Tales.
Inaccurate Data Comparison
The primary flaw in the Ghost Town reports and Failure Fairy Tales are their misuse of, or limited access to the actual numbers they’re reporting. A lot of these articles have data-sets or maybe even a pretty infographic to go along with it.
The problem is that they ignore a few fundamental aspects that make their numbers worth less than the paper they’re not printed on.
I’ve broken this down into 3 sub-sections:
Firstly, they use only public data. Since Google hasn’t given out access to it’s API, the only data these companies can collect are from public posts. It doesn’t take into account that the majority of activity that happens on Google+ is not public.
The very nature of Google+ is built around only sharing things with specific circles of people– making privacy and relevancy a priority. This is completely unlike the social networks Google+ is compared with, whose data is publicly available to the world, or anyone with an API key.
Basically their comparison is like sitting in a mall parking lot going, “From the looks of it, there is no business taking place out here”. The activity is on the inside, dummy. (Okay, maybe not the best comparison, but you get the point.)
Additionally, most of these reports don’t have the ability to gauge mobile activity, which makes up a good portion of the activity and traffic. Failing to take this into account shows a complete lack of understanding of where technology and the rise of mobile is going. Anyone who fails to take this into account (or at least mention it) in their reporting is completely inept, and shouldn’t be given credibility in such matters.
The Real Numbers
Just in case you’re wondering what the real numbers are, here’s where Google+ is at as of December 2012 according to the Official Google Blog:
- 500+ Million user accounts
- 235+ Million active Google+ users across Google product integration
- 135+ Million active in the Google+ stream alone
Ghost town, eh?
*UPDATE:* Did you see that Google+ is now the number two social network in the world?
Comparing Apples to Apple Martinis
A lot of the comparisons between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are flawed. From the very beginning the Failure Fairy Tale tellers have been making bogus comparisons that just don’t hold up. They compare an established, already successful network which has embedded it’s functions (such as “Like” buttons) and connections (connect via Facebook) across the internet for nearly a decade, and say that Google+ is a failure because it isn’t seeing as much activity.
They fail to report on the fact that Google+ managed to gain 100 million users in under a year, while it took Facebook and Twitter almost 5 years. Even if they do mention that part, they make weak arguments as to why that’s not a big deal.
The bottom line is, they just don’t know how to gauge the success rate of Google+. They’re too ill-informed about how it works, and they don’t have access (or inclination to get) all the real data. It’s not Facebook, yet they try to analyze it like Facebook. Just because it shares certain traits of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like, doesn’t mean that it can be compared in the same way. It’s like comparing an apple to an apple martini. A similar taste, and maybe a few shared traits, but many more ingredients to account for.
API Access Makes a Difference
Like I mentioned above, Google+ has not allowed access to their API, keeping 3rd party developers from creating apps, or automated programs that can interface with Google+.
The other social networks however, have hundreds (maybe even thousands) of 3rd party applications that have access to their API. This makes it very easy to create automated accounts, duplicate accounts, and all sorts of other non-human powered interactions on the networks. This allows the actual engagement numbers to be inflated well beyond the reality.
Twitter is all too familiar with the plague of spam-bots and fake followers. Even worse, Facebook has recently been exposed for fake “Likes” happening– people who are deceased are “Liking” things! It’s also been recorded that the number of fake accounts on these networks is astonishing. Huffington Post recently published an article stating that Facebook’s 1 Billion users may in reality be less than 500 million! A lot of this can be attributed to API access making it easy to automate and hack these networks. This is probably why Google+ has not given access yet, and the engagement there is more authentic, and less spammy.
You’re Doing It Wrong
Another thing that bugs me about these so-called “experts” is that the real reason behind all their erroneous and ignorant reporting is that they don’t seem to even understand how to use the network they’re bashing.
Just go investigate some of their Google+ profiles. I bet you’ll find that the “Ghost Town” reporters have very few people in their circles. No wonder they’re saying it’s a ghost town– they aren’t getting any stream activity because they’re not following any one! Try using that method on Twitter– sign up for an account and follow 12 people who also just signed up and don’t know how to use it. I bet you’ll see loads of interesting stuff (sarcasm).
Likewise, those Failure Fairy Talers probably haven’t gained any sort of following, therefore it is a failure to them. Since their efforts (or lack of efforts) have failed, they blame it on the network.
Let me ask you this– would you take medical advice from a guy who dropped out of med school because he didn’t have a degree after 1 semester and is now saying med school doesn’t work? No, I’m sure you’d just realize that they’re weird, and walk away.
This section will address the motivations behind these Google+ nay-sayers. I’m willing to bet that anyone who is touting the “failure” or “ghostliness” of Google+ has one or all of these underlying motives at play.
When you have a vested interest in the success of a product, you will inevitably criticize, bash, and oppose any new competing product. Those who have bought stock or have some sort of financial attachment to one of the other networks will certainly be doing all they can to ensure the success of that network– which includes cutting down the new network on the block that poses a threat.
On the payroll
Some of these articles and infographics have been created (or paid for by) companies or individuals who are on the payroll of another network. This biased presentation goes undisclosed the majority of the time.
Some of these folks have put a lot of time, effort, and even money into building their platform on other networks. Having to “start over” on another network can look intimidating, daunting, and down right frustrating. They don’t want to do the work of learning new things, and building yet another platform.
Those are the same people who said the same thing about Myspace. History repeats itself.
It’s much easier to try to keep your current audience where they are, then to build a new digital location to learn, strategize for, and manage.
Let’s face it– the internet is always evolving and if you’re unwilling to change with it, you’re ensuring your own digital demise.
An article from The Creativity Post had an interesting insight along the same lines:
“Expect the experts to be negative. The more expert and specialized a person becomes, the more their mindset becomes narrowed and the more fixated they become on confirming what they believe to be absolute. Consequently, when confronted with new and different ideas, their focus will be on conformity. Does it conform with what I know is right? If not, experts will spend all their time showing and explaining why it can’t be done and why it can’t work. They will not look for ways to make it work or get it done because this might demonstrate that what they regarded as absolute is not absolute at all. This is why when Fred Smith created Federal Express, every delivery expert in the U.S. predicted its certain doom. After all, they said, if this delivery concept was doable, the Post Office or UPS would have done it long ago.” -CreativityPost.com [12 Things You Were Not Taught In School About Creative Thinking]
As an added bonus, I wanted to let you know about a couple great posts from Google+ enthusiasts that will further emphasize what I’ve mentioned above:
Mike Elgan (one of my Google+ heroes) writes a fantastic post, brilliantly titled “Google+ Ghostbusters Kit” which will effectively show you how to make sure your Google+ experience is never that of a Ghost town.
I pray that when you see these “Ghost Town” and “Google+ Failure” headlines, you will be more equipped to see through the nonsense. Remember, just because someone spits out a bunch of statistics and has a pretty infographic to go along with it, doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. Odds are, they’re still clueless, and just trying to sell headlines.
From my own experience, I can tell you first hand that Google+ is now my #1 source of referral traffic. I get almost twice as much referral traffic from Google+ as I do both Facebook and Twitter. Not only that, but I’ve found some valuable connections and developed some great relationships that I would have never found on any other network. My stream is full of interesting content, and a very high level of engagement.
Has your experience on Google+ shown it to be a ghost town? What is your response to the Google+ Failure Fairy Tales? You can leave a comment by clicking here.