It is now a year since Google introduced its fifth stab at social networking, Google+. So, has it been the “Facebook Killer” it set out to be? Hardly. Facebook has added more people in the past year than Google+ has received in total interest. Google+ has had 170m people sign up for it in the past 12 months, but in that time Facebook has grown by 200m users. Other interesting statistics reveal that each month, on average, people spend just 5-minutes on Google+ yet almost 7 hours on Facebook. Indeed, people spend considerably more time on Tumblr or Pinterest than on Google+.

Google+ loses out to Facebook again

This must be really bad news for Google. They have put their all into Google+, indeed 25% of the staff bonuses are now linked to the performance of Google+. So everyone has an incentive to make it work. Yet, clearly, it isn’t really working.

There is one sector in which you will find Google+ fans, people who have ditched Facebook in favour of Google+. These are young men in the high-tech sector. They love Google+. The rest of us, well, we simply do not like it at all, the statistics suggest.

So why is that? All the pundits agree Google+ is better designed than Facebook, being cleaner and with more obvious navigation, clearer buttons and so on. Google has also pumped in massive marketing budget and included Google+ in its search engine ranking system, almost forcing website owners to use Google+. Yet in spite of all this Google+ users, on average, return to the site only once every 12 days.

What’s going on? The answer is simple. Most people do not like it. Less than 7% of the entire online world uses it – almost 94% of web users completely ignore Google+. That compares with almost 45% of the online world using Facebook every day…! If people like something, they tend to use it regularly.

Google+ has several features which make it easy to unlike. Firstly, it is too pervasive. Throughout the Google network of sites, from the search engine to Gmail and beyond, Google+ lurks trying to grab your attention. It’s rather like an annoying toddler poking you in the ribs every couple of minutes.

Secondly, in spite of its design simplicity, Google+ is rather complex to use compared with Facebook. Like so many other online companies Google – unusually – has gone for design over function. Yet it is function that wins the day in terms of likeability.

But more importantly in terms of being liked, Google+ has not listened. It has focused so much on itself, it has forgotten what the users really want – unless you are in that niche of young, male technology geeks who form a core of Google+ users. Hang on a minute – that sounds like Google itself.

Perhaps the fact that Google+ hasn’t really succeeded is that it has committed that cardinal sin of business – internal focus and trying to outwit the competition, rather than focusing on the needs and requirements of the customer.

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