I haven’t checked into Google+ for a while and I know I’m not the only one. This is the chicken and egg problem for Google+—people won’t use a social network unless they can be social…but if people are not there contributing to conversations they cease to use the service. The problem becomes a self-perpetuating downward spiral.
I had high hopes for Google+ since I am not a Facebook user (more on that later). After the initial rush subsided I confess for the most part I found the level of engagement just wasn’t there: the content feels like a broadcast publishing channel for people (mainly marketing/social media/branding) to reach an incremental audience, or more likely, hoping to curry favour with Google in terms of search ranking. In a sense Google+ is like the ghost cities of China or tracts of big box stores on the fringes of new suburbs. It is shiny, modern, and new, but largely vacant and lacking the vibrancy of a true community.
While I pull some interesting posts and links from my other feeds the signal-to-noise ratio on Google+ seems low: the value is to the publisher (higher page rank, profile checkbox, another backlink) than it is to the audience. The content I find on Google+ tends to be self-serving to the publisher rather than them doing me a favour and pointing out something neat, novel, cool, or interesting. When I post something on Twitter or even Pinterest I do so because I actually find it interesting and hope someone else will do the same: Google+’s content feels like it’s designed for algorithms, promotion, or simply keyword slurry to fill the pipeline. Even though I’m in marketing myself there is nothing worse than an echo chamber filled with nothing but marketing messages.
I have long held the notion that people only have the time to dedicate to one network. Whether it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, or Reddit, it’s simply too hard to find the time to really cultivate and develop a valuable network once, let alone several times. For me that’s been Twitter, and while I’ve dabbled in others (LinkedIn, Flickr, Google+) I get spread too thin, find too much content duplication, or fall off for some of the other reasons I mentioned. Google arrived late to the social network party and people were already entrenched. It’s not really Twitter and it’s very similar to Facebook. It has some nice features but none are compelling enough to leave the security of an established network to go homesteading; if you break an axle on Google+ Trail you’re probably going to die of dysentery.
So for now Google+ will continue to be like the refrigerator when I’m hungry—no matter how many times I open the door to look inside there’s still nothing interesting to eat.