Google has unnaturally propelled its growth by automatically creating Google+ accounts for all new Google users. In addition, the company also refused to provide data regarding the number of active users or the amount of time users are spending on the new social network.
Now, a recent comScore's U.S. Digital Future in Focus report suggests that Google+ users are only averaging a total of 3 minutes per month on the site promting The Wall Street Journal to call Google's networking site a "virtual ghost town."
The WSJ report tallies up the "mounting minuses" at Google+, citing lackluster engagement and a difficulty in differentiating the service from Facebook as challenges for the newer social network. While acknowledging that "the company's main financial goal of Google+ is to obtain personal data about users to better target ads to them across all of Google."
comScore reported that 1 of every 6 minutes spent online now is spent on social networks. In December 2011, visitors spent an average of 423 minutes on Facebook, and just 6 minutes on Google+. It's certainly indicative of a lack of engagement. "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."
Here is the comScore's breakdown of average number of minutes users spend on each of the major social networking sites:
- Facebook: 405 minutes
- Pinterest/Tumblr: 98 minutes
- Twitter: 21 minutes
- LinkedIn: 17
- MySpace: 8
- Google+: 3
David Cohen, of Universial McCann, said the lack of engagement on Google+ could indicate a future monetization problem for the social network: "Google+ does not have the same degree of vibrancy that Facebook, Twitter or even Pinterest has at the moment. Without active engagement, it will not be as attractive to advertisers."
Bradley Horowitz, Google's vp of product management, indicated that Google+ is a destination site and that the metrics are "extremely hard for any third party to measure." In addition, he said that the Google+ network is experiencing satisfactory growth in every area that Google measures.
A Google spokeswoman told reporters that the comScore data was much lower than Google's internal metrics.
To some observers, the challenges Google is facing in creating a rival destination to Facebook and Twitter evokes the problems that Microsoft has had in creating a rival search destination to Google search with Bing. Facebook and Twitter helped change the way people discover new things on the Web, rivaling Google as the chief gateway to the Internet. Much of the activity on Facebook is private and can't be accessed by Google's search engine, making search less useful as people spend more time on Facebook.