Are people actually using Google+, the social network that Google rolled out last year?
We know that signups are growing fast — in fact, Google often likes to say that Google+ is the fastest growing Web site in history.
But all along, there have been hints that a lot of people are signing up out of curiosity, and then not really visiting much after that.
There were a couple of reports to that effect from Experian Hitwise in July. Some stats from Alexa in August. (Although we know that Alexa is pretty bogus for measuring traffic.) Another report from Experian Hitwise in January that said the site got 49 million visits in December — that’s less than one visit per signed-up user.
Plus, there’s a clear sensation when you use the site that it’s not a very broad community. There are a lot of Google employees, bloggers, and journalists. But your old high school friends? Family members? favourite celebrities? Not so much yet.
But on today’s Google earnings call, Larry Page announced what seemed to be real engagement numbers for Google+. Here’s what he said, as taken directly from the transcript on (where else?) Google+:
I’m also pleased to announce that there are over 90M Google+ users — well over double what I announced just a quarter ago on our earnings call. Engagement on + is also growing tremendously. I have some amazing data to share there for the first time: +users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly.
Like a lot of other folks, we misheard that. We thought he said that over 60% of Google+ users come back to Google+ daily, and over 80% weekly.
But a post from Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici straightened us out. That’s not what he said at all.
He said that 60% of Google+ users engage with SOME GOOGLE PRODUCT daily, and 80% engage with SOME GOOGLE PRODUCT weekly.
Google+ head Vic Gundotra clarified a little further with an image he posted today to (where else?) Google+. See for yourself:
That doesn’t say much about Google+ engagement.
Because every time I sign into my Gmail account, that signs me into Google+. I may not read or post a darn thing. But I’m signed in.
And if I check the “keep me signed in” box and don’t have my browser set to clear cookies every time I close it, then I’m signed to Google+ in every time I visit any Google property. Including search.
Companies play selective games with statistics all the time, like saying that sales grew some huge percentage number without talking about the base. (“Doubled sales” can mean from 1 to 2.)
It usually means that the real numbers — the ones that everybody wants to hear about — aren’t that good. If sales were great, the company would just say “we sold x million units,” like Apple does with its iPhone and iPad every quarter.
So here the statistics that will prove Google+ is taking off.
Of the 90 million people who have signed up for Google+, how many of them post content or participate in a Hangout on Google+? Daily, weekly, or monthly?
And how many of them consume content that somebody else posted on Google+? Daily, weekly, or monthly?
When Google is willing to share those numbers, we’ll be happy to listen.