Google+ struggling to win over brands as social network sites thrive

To mark the Cinco de Mayo holiday this year, Domino’s Pizza festooned its Facebook page with a string of posts, including an image of a Mexican- themed guacamole pizza that garnered over 2,000 “likes”.

But visitors to Domino’s companion Google+ page on that day found less festive fare: The most recent post was from Oct 2012.

Some two years after introducing its social network, Google is struggling to win over the brands and businesses that have been its most loyal customers in the search engine market.

For Google+ to thrive,it is vital to draw in household names — not just to lay the groundwork for potential future business — but also because users have come to expect being able to follow, comment on, or even vent about their favourite brands.

Progress has been slow. Rival services — from Twitter to Amazon — are increasingly competitive in vying for corporate attention and marketing budgets, while technical shortcomings of Google+ have put off some companies accustomed to the flexibility of Facebook, marketing and corporate executives say.

The biggest problem for Google+ is that many more consumers use Twitter and Facebook — and they log in to Facebook for much longer periods.

A Google spokeswoman said Google+ has been used by millions of brands and businesses, and that the benefit of the service extends beyond Google+ web pages, by providing brands with social capabilities that enhance Google’s other products.

Google+, which was first introduced in Jun 2011, has roughly 135m users that, it says, actively use its website news stream, and about 500m that have set up Google+ accounts at some point.

Still, Facebook has 1.1bn users who engage with the service at least once a month. Twitter has 200m.

The average US visitor spent six minutes 47 seconds on Google+ in March, versus more than six hours on Facebook, according to Nielsen Media Research, though the data does not include activity on the social network’s mobile apps.

“The main reason we are more active on Facebook than Google+ is because that is where our customers and our target demographic are spending their time,” said Dave Gilboa, the co-founder of online eyewear company Warby Parker.

Many firms do build outposts on Google+, eager to benefit from its integration with Google’s popular internet search service. Some corporations have even used its online video feature for splashy product launches.

But the flurry of commercial activity common on other social networks is harder to spot on Google+, raising questions about its ability to rival Facebook or Twitter as a thriving community.

Google does not provide detailed information on user activity. But the level of consumer engagement on other social services, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, is “orders of magnitude higher” than on Google+, Gilboa says.

Still, he noted that a key benefit of Google+ for Warby Parker is the way it adds social capabilities to other Google services, such as YouTube videos his company produces.

An informal survey by Reuters showed that of the 100 most valuable global brands in 2012 ranked by Millward Brown, a media research firm owned by ad giant WPP, 72 have a presence on Google+, compared with 87 on Facebook.


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