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 October 2012.
after introducing its social network, Google Inc is struggling to win
over the brands and businesses that have been its most loyal customers
in the Internet search 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 of the site have come to expect
being able to follow, comment on or even vent about their favorite
Progress has been slow. Rival services from Twitter to
Amazon.com Inc 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
Google+, which was first introduced in June 2011, has
roughly 135 million users that it says actively use its website news
stream, and about 500 million that have set up Google+ accounts at some
point, according to the company. Still, Facebook has 1.1 billion users
who engage with the service at least once a month, while Twitter has 200
The average U.S. visitor to Google+ spent 6 minutes 47
seconds on the site in March, versus more than 6 hours on Facebook.com,
according to Nielsen Media Research, though the data does not include
activity on the social networks' 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.
businesses 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
But the flurry of commercial activity common on other
social networks - from restaurant promotions to movie trailers - is
harder to spot on Google+, raising questions about its ability to rival
Facebook or Twitter as a thriving online community.
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
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.
roughly 40 percent of the brands with pages on Google+ have either
never posted any content, or do so infrequently. Seventeen brands,
including Nike and Pepsi, had not posted to their Google+ page in more
than a week.
The McDonald's Google+ page did not have a single
posting. A spokeswoman for the fast-food chain said only that the
company was "not active" on Google+.
"In my personal network, I
have very few people who are actively using Google+," said Dan
Nguyen-Tan, vice president of sales and marketing for San
Francisco-based bicycle company Public Bikes, which does regular
promotions on Facebook but has not created a Google+ page. "That could
be a reason why I haven't thought about it as an effective tool."
Some also complain that Google+ is too restrictive a canvas.
profile pages are more limited than on Facebook or Twitter because they
don't support iFrame, a Web standard that allows multiple Web pages to
be embedded within a main page.
"I don't think that Google+ has
enough creative options for brands to be able to marshal a lot of
resources and activity around it," said Vince Broady, the Chief
Executive of Thismoment, which develops social marketing campaigns and
Web pages for brands such as Coca Cola and Intel.
Google's director of global social solutions, said the company was
working its way down a "wish list" of features that businesses have been
Over the past year, it has rolled out a tool that
allows software developers to connect with a brand's page, though that
has so far been offered only to a limited group of partners.
That's not to say Google+ hasn't had its share of success stories.
points to examples such as automaker Fiat's launch of its new Panda car
using "Hangout" video conferencing, and the 40,000-member baking
community page created by chocolate company Cadbury. According to
Google, more than 100 brands on its social network have amassed more
than 1 million followers.
And Google's search engine, the most
popular in the world, is a big draw. Businesses who have registered with
Google+ often get extra visibility in search results, with a portion of
the results page displaying information from their Google+ profile.
ads that incorporate Google+ information - such as the number of users
who follow a brand - have a 5 to 10 percent better click-through rate
than regular search ads, said Howard.
"Right now, the value isn't
in the network itself, it's in what it can do for the search results,"
said Greg Finn, director of marketing at search engine optimization firm
Google has never articulated how, or even if, it
intends to make money off its social network. But analysts say the goal
is to prevent migration of Internet users to Facebook and other social
networks, while improving its core search advertising business and
possibly providing a new source of income.
While Google+ does not
feature any ads now, Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser said
attracting major brands could be the first step to an important,
high-margin revenue source.
New ad space inside Google-owned
websites is particularly valuable because it doesn't need to share
revenue, as Google must do when its network places ads on other
"If you're Google, you really want to have more owned
and operated properties," said Wieser. "That's a wonderful, high-margin
piece of inventory."
Google+ is a means to that end, he said.
© Thomson Reuters 2013