The Social Media Relevance Test: G+ Is Failing

The Social Media Relevance Test: G+ Is Failing


In June 2015 Google Plus will be 4 years old.

To say I’m a little disappointed that Google hasn’t made a real run at building the Facebook killer app in Google Plus would be an understatement that stretches across the four plus years since it was launched. We need a new social platform. Facebook is sinking as a connection tool, as the ads and promoted content drowns out any chance of meaningful conversation. That’s what social media is about, was about, conversation. And Facebook is about 5% conversation and about 95% advertising. That’s not a social network, that’s an advertising network.

So I ran some numbers for my 2014 referrals from Google Plus on three different blogs. And I’ve put some work into growing my G+ account. And I’ve garnered a following of 3,300. Not all that powerful, considering the effort I’ve made. And in spite of PLUSSING every single post I’ve made on all three blogs, my results speak for themselves.


The only stat that’s even remotely interesting is for the third blog, this one. But 176 referrals after a year’s worth of Plussing? That’s awful. Still it’s my #5 referrer. But this blog, is very tech heavy. And that’s what you’ll notice if you spend any time on G+. There are three main types of content (thus users) on G+. Here’s my informal demographic breakdown of G+ users and content.

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  • (50%) Social media workers/enthusiasts/evangelists. I was a G+ pitch-man. I really wanted it to go.
  • (30%) Photo sharing. For some reason people LOVE photos on G+. And if you dig animated gifs (I hate them and use an extension to stop them from playing at all.) G+ is loaded with them.
  • (5%) Social sharing purely for reach and SEO-potential.
  • (3%) General social sharing. (People trying to establish communities and conversations.)
  • (2%) Scammers, MLMarketers, Snake-oil Salesmen.

The good news: If you’re a tech marketer or photographer G+ is probably a good place for you to hang out. But you’ll be speaking to the choir and not really reaching anyone outside this demographic. It’s a nice bubble if that’s where your ambitions point.

The bad news: For everything else, G+ is just another social platform. Yes, it performs better than Pinterest or Instagram, but putting a strategy around G+ these days, sounds like a better idea than it really is in execution. If you’re goal is reach and referrals.

What’s the upside?

If Google really wanted to make a go of it, they could pour actual development money at G+. But it’s not that essential to their business model. From wikipedia: “Google has described Google+ as a “social layer” that enhances many of its online properties, and that it is not simply a social networking website, but also an authorship tool that associates web-content directly with its owner/author.

Unfortunately they killed “authorship” and have done an awful job of building and promoting G+. The initial ads seemed to hint at the good life ahead if you built your family network on G+. Then Google tried force-feeding it to us by requiring a G+ account to comment on YouTube videos and other social platforms. That backfired and created more ill-will than warm fuzzies.

We know Facebook sucks. We’re begging for someone to come up with a new model for social sharing not driven by advertising. (See Ello and Tsu.) But so far, they’ve been disappointments in all aspects of becoming the next social platform.

What is it? What do we need? How can we jump ship from Facebook, and give Zuck the big middle finger for good?

A long time ago, when I was just starting out on this blog, in 2009, I wrote a cocky little piece about the newly discovered Social Media Formula. But the concept still holds true, so I’ll revisit the idea for a second. Of course there’s a t-shirt.

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People x Platform / Interactions – Misses = Trust – Here’s the 2009 post: THE new Formula for Social Media Success – Available Now

Facebook has been the platform for all of us. Sure the kids today are using Instagram and Snapchat. But they see each other everyday at school. Social media is about building a conversation and community when you are no longer able or willing to be “with” each other most of the time. On Facebook this connective aspect of social media is being killed. And Zuck and Co. care more about shareholder value and the availability of the next $100,000+ exotic car for their collections. The conversation is dying on Facebook.

The social media relevance test.

ONE – POPULAR CULTURE: Post a simple question on your Facebook page. Something like: BEST MOVIE YOU SAW IN 2014?  Or U2 vs Coldplay, Go! And then wait to see how many responses you get. A couple years ago you could expect 30 – 50% of your connected friends to see your question and about 10% of those people to answer. Today you’ll have to PAY to promote your question’s reach over about 3 – 5%. And the responses will come from the same 10 people who constantly interact with you on Facebook. Those are the people who make up your allotted 3%.

TWO – POLITICAL DISCUSSION OR RANT: Now post something political. You can go middle of the road or fire things up a bit with something controversial. Now what’s your response rate?

THREE – SHARE SOMETHING WITH ME: Random question for advice. Here’s the real value/test of the purely social aspect of social media. “Leaving Austin, what are the top things my family must see before we depart this Summer?”

I suppose the real test will be doing this same set of questions on G+. But it doesn’t even compute for me. I’ll do it. And with over 3,000 followers vs. 300 “friends” I’m already certain of the lack of response on G+. My hope is that I will be surprised by the engagement on Facebook, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’m going to do this test on my own, over the next week and report back here with the results. I’d love to hear from you about your NETWORK and how you ARE or ARE NOT getting your “social” needs met on Facebook or any other network.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)


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