Google CEO Larry Page recently announced that Google Plus crossed over the 100 million user mark and continues to see strong user growth.

Despite these strong numbers, however, the service continues to be pummeled in the press. Many outlets have claimed that engagement is poor and that growth is only fueled by Google forcing membership upon users of its other products.

Rather than rely on third-party reports, we decided to pull publicly available data on a random population into an RJMetrics online dashboard and see for ourselves.

Here are some of our most interesting findings:

  • The average post has less than one +1, less than one reply, and less than one re-share.
  • 30% of users who make a public post never make a second one. Even after making five public posts, there is a 15% chance that a user will not post publicly again.
  • Among users who make publicly-viewable posts, there is an average of 12 days between each post
  • A cohort analysis reveals that, after a member makes a public post, the average number of public posts they make in each subsequent month declines steadily. This trend is not improving in newer cohorts.

How We Did It

We began by selecting a population of 40,000 random Google Plus users. For each user, we downloaded their entire public timelines (which consist of all publicly-visible activities for that user). Only one third of the users in our population had any public activity, so this sub-set of the population is the main focus of many of our statistics.

Once we had the data, it was a snap to upload it to RJMetrics and pull the insights seen here with just a few clicks.

Since we are looking at public data exclusively, we want to point out that this data is not necessarily reflective of the entire population of users. These are simply insights into the public-facing actions of Google Plus users based on a population that is known to post publicly.

Repeat Posters

Once a user has made one public post, the chances that they will make a second post are quite strong: around 70%. After that, however, Google Plus does not perform as well as other social services that have analyzed. In charts like these, we typically expect to see the probability of repeat posts shoot up to well north of 90% by the time the user has made several posts. This is basically the “once you’re using it you’re hooked” principle.

With Google Plus, however, this number never crosses the 90% mark. Even after having made five such posts, the chance of making a sixth is only 85%. The means that 15% of people who have made five posts never came back to make a sixth.

Cohort Analysis

The cohort analysis below shows the rate at which new publicly-viewable posts are created by users who made their first post in different months throughout time.

This is a cumulative chart, so we’re basically showing the “average number of total posts made” as it grows over time for users in each cohort.

The decay rate here is very concerning. Users are less and less likely to make additional posts even a few months after initially joining. While it may not be an apples-to-apples comparison, it’s interesting to contrast this with the same chart from our Pinterest Data Analysis, which shows no decay whatsoever.

Time Between Posts

We were surprised at the by the length of time between public posts among users. On average, a user waits 15 days between making their first public post and making their second. This number declines with each subsequent post, but not drastically. There is an average of 10 days between a user’s fifth and sixth public posts.

The overall average time between any two public posts by the same user is 12 days.

Remember that, since we are only looking at public posts, it is very possible that users are making non-public posts in between the ones that we were able to see. Despite this, however, we were still quite surprised by the large amount of time between public posts.

+1s, Replies, and Sharing

Of all the categories, we feel that this is the least likely to be biased by the fact that we only studied public posts. These public posts will still be visible to each member’s private networks, and actually could attract +1s, shares, and replies from external users as well. If anything, we would expect our numbers here to be higher than in the general population.

Despite that, our population of nearly 70,000 posts yielded the following properties:

  • An average of 0.77 “+1s” per post
  • An average of 0.54 replies per post
  • An average of 0.17 re-shares per post

Conclusion

From what we can see from the outside looking in, Google Plus has a long way to go before it becomes a real threat to the social networking landscape. While user growth is strong, it is unclear how much of that is driven by tie-ins with other Google products.

At the end of the day, Google Plus simply does not show the same level of ravenous user adoption and engagement that we’ve seen in other social networks (see our reports on Pinterest Data and Twitter Data for examples).

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  • Aaron Hager

    The only reason I found this page was because of Facebook. Ironic that people have to use Facebook to get info about Google+ out there. It was a project that was dead before it started.

  • Anthony Blaine

    Facebook is garbage. G+ is where it’s at. The problem with new users on G+ is that they try to use it like Facebook. G+ isn’t a Facebook clone… it’s a different animal and actually quite a bit more engaging than the BS Drama on Facebook.

  • Doc Harvard

    I find it interesting that this article is making a comparison between Twitter / FaceBook [ both networks existing for over a year ] and Google+ [ which hasn't existed for even a year ] and expects similar results.

    I also find it interesting that you mention the ties that Google is using as if it were something bad and frowned upon but neglect to mention the same behaviors of FaceBook and that “they” have been doing it for years.

    Let’s first put your data in perspective.

    Google+ hasn’t been around for even a year yet and it has a publicly declared and provable membership of 100+ million members.

    What did FaceBook have the first year of its existence? Only approximately 2 million.

    What did Twitter have the first year of its existence? Between 16k and 5 million, the numbers are conflicting so we’ll go with the greater and say 5 million.

    Seems like there is a threat there.

    Next let’s look at your implications about Google tying in their products. How is this any different than what FaceBook has been doing for years; and, including 3rd party offerings as well? In fact, this behavior is so prevalent that many blogs and services require that you have a FaceBook account in order to use them. If this is a bad thing then shouldn’t we be spreading FaceBook over the hot coals for creating this model?

    Now let’s look at your actual data sample. You only sampled 0.07% of the total declared Google+ population. Maybe the author of this article took a different type of statistical analysis course than I did but 0.07% isn’t a significant enough cross sample to make the kinds of declarations being made here with any modicum of trust in the data. I can concede that there is a potential difficulty in gauging the true level of activity on Google+ due to the ability to not publicly expose your posts. Which introduces a variable that could and, from anecdotal experience, does skew your data. Taking this into account your findings should include at least a stated margin of error of 10% or so.

    However, working with the data that you have exposed shows that there is an increase, over time, of public postings on Google+ directly relational to the length of time spent as a member of Google+. This type of trend is consistent with new users learning how to use new software and SaaS.

    Personally, I think this is a veiled attempt at using bandwagon topics as a marketing ploy to get people to checkout your products. Frankly, with data results this erroneous I’d be more comfortable recommending Microsoft Excel to any BI clients I have.

  • Aaron Hager

    They don’t have 100Million members. That is a lie, if you have a gmail account you have a google+ account. So all the people that have gmail count towards google+ accounts. Not sure those of us that had gmail before the launch of google+ were automatically added to their “members” or if it was an opt-in thing. I can’t recall.

    But I do know that if you sign up today for a gmail account you get a google+ account. So how many of those 100Million members are actually using it?

    I signed up as fast as I could by getting an invite from someone else, something like that. And was excited about it which lasted about 2 weeks, to me it’s FB part 2 which will never work. I have no desire to video chat with a bunch of people at once so that doesn’t do me any good.

    I think it’s an iPhone vs Android conversation, some of us will never use it because we are so invested into FB, some will use it because they want to revolt against FB, some are just die-hard google people.

    I just don’t see it lasting in it’s present state. A graph I would like to see is how many of the google+ accounts have at least 8 posts in the month of April. That is nothing, 2 posts a week. And then another graph of how many users have 60 posts Then we will have a real number of users.

  • Doc Harvard

    https://plus.google.com/107863796156749531232/posts/c5KarAV9RWe

    I would presume that the author, and his fact checkers, have active Google+ accounts in order to verify the data that is being collected. As such the author should be able to view the above public link and see counter data to the data being shown here.

    I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

  • Peter Brown

    Anybody who propagates these flawed stats about Google Plus is either:

    1. Having some agenda or
    2. Is incompetent

    Just consider the fact: Google+ had about 60 million unique visitors last month (verified by 3rd parties). I will remove publishers who spread this non-sense from my circles and from Google News – did you know that now you can ask Google News not to display news from sources you choose!. Yes, there is a way to fight back this corporate propaganda. Do you agree?

  • Zoe Alexander

    I really like Google+, it suits me down to the ground and I often G+ share, more so than I do on FB. I think of FB more just for friends whereas G+ is more professional for me personally.

  • James

    Hi, This is some fantastic information on Google+ I think the problem with the site is that we have soo many people signing up but they simply do not use it because the interaction rate is low, this research just shows this.

    That been said where is the Google+1 button on your page hehe =)

  • Mikael Vikström

    I’m not impressed by the methodology of this survey. I generally restrict myself to my freinds when posting on G+ as well as on fb. Public posts are not a good measurement on activity on any of the sites.

  • Nef

    I use both Facebook and Google+ on a daily basis. I go to Facebook to see what folks are up to but I go to Google+ to read interesting posts. I have some friends who only use FB and some who only use G+ so if I want to interact with them, I go to where they are posting.

    I really like the ability to post private things on G+, I have a lot of private circles for different interests. I just don’t see why it has to be FB vs G+, they are both useful in their own ways.

  • Brian Russell (The Underfold)

    Google Plus is set up to post and interact with closed circles more. The fact that the people post publicly is not a good measurement at all.

  • Aaron

    I agree with Mikael — Public Posts should not be a KPI. I *sometimes* share Publicly on there, but most of my posts are shared with one or more circles because, frankly THAT’S WHY I (and probably many others) SWITCHED TO G+ FROM FACBEOOK.

    The fact that you CAN’T see as many posts is a feature, not a bug. If Twitter had streams protected by default, it would appear to be very low engagement, as well.

    My G+ stream is very lively and constantly updates throughout the day by a number of people on a variety of topics.

  • Jonathan Abbey

    Who funded this study?

  • Frank

    Twitter is good for finding news.
    Google Plus is good source for finding what’s hot.
    People coming with Twitter or Facebook fame, will be noticed on G+.
    Others are poking in the dark. Yes engagement is poor for Gplus Joe.

  • Arnold

    Public posts? Come on! Those numbers are equally inadequate as the official Google figures. Just consider the largely different concepts of “social” of those services. My social life is NOT public by default.

    Try again!

  • Michael T. Babcock

    The study is flawed because a huge number of people I follow on G+ post only to circles. As a member of those circles, I see and can respond to their posts, and they have no need to post their thoughts on certain issues publicly. The study knows it can only investigate public posts, but somehow correlates this to user engagement. Many users are in fact more engaged by the private circle concept.

  • Batman

    @Anthony Blaine

    You might be right in that Google+ has more/better features than Facebook when it comes to more tech savvy people; however, Google themselves made the mistake of associating their product with Facebook right from the get-go. They did the same with Wave. They dubbed Wave the “Facebook killer”.

    Had they marketed G+ down an entirely different path and kept G+ and Facebook out of the same sentence, they might have stood a chance.

    If it hasn’t taken off by now, it never will.

  • Stephen Walsh

    I think there’s a lot of private talk going on with Google plus and it seems like it may be developing into a business focussed LinkedIn/Facebook hybrid.

    If you extrapolate that data (especially the large numbers of users who don’t make following posts) it shows that either people are being grabbed to return.

    Facebook has the “addiction” feel to it which has many users hooked Google+ looks like it may have a way to go.

  • Dmitriy Frolov

    I`m sure in near future, when all SEO`s, bloggers and just internet social people will understand the whole power of Google + we will see big increase in those numbers. But For now, Google + is really kind a raw

  • Tom Theodosiades

    The problem isn’t with Google Plus. Everyone hates FB. But Fb owns our lives. Try to take your photos, and you have to load at least 3 FB pages to complete each download. Try to migrate your contacts, to Yahoo! or Bing, no problem. Then try to export them in any form and all you get is empty spreadsheets.

    Google+’s growth has been no slower than FB in the years when Myspace was king, but Fb and their cohorts have purchased Trust-esque immunity through their “contacts” at the SEC and the FTC.

    One anti-trust ruling that states that the creators of digital data own it and are free to take it where they please, and FB won’t make through the Holiday season.

    FB is over, and once we figure some workarounds around their monopolistic walled garden, I can’t wait to watch that imaginary fortune evaporate.

    Right it down. Selling user data and information without their consent or knowledge will be the end of the Book. Write my name down, because I’ll be working on this all Summer.

    If you actually like Fb, you don’t have real friends, so I’m not surprised you know how little people hate your anti-Social Network. For that, you’d need flesh and-blood friends and you’d actually need to *gasp* talk to them.

    Yes, fanboys, this is what a hostage market looks like. Why do you think FB is so afraid of the FTC? One new regulation and their entire business model evaporates. Why don’t you just make your loverboy Suckernerd stop stealing our data, lives, and memories because he never had any friends of his own? Why the hell would let a socially-retarded recluse tell you how to socialize?

    Talk about the blind leading the blind…

  • Matt

    Bring back the old Google Reader. It was canned only to try to force happy users into using G+ instead.

  • Loris

    Google+ is dead on arrival. I travel all over the world and never seen anyone use it other than Google employees. Wanna bet it will disappear within a couple of years? Google has better things to do (and to sell).

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  • Ryan Ng

    I find that my engagement is very high (on average I have had 5 +1s, 1 comment, and one share per post). Is that a problem/anomaly?

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  • Dan

    I am a member of google+ primarily because it is easier and simpler to disembowel the social networking elements for which Facebook and Twitter have become infamous. I hope it remains that way.

  • Ryan Ng

    -2