To hear Google Inc. Chief Executive Larry Page tell it, Google+ has become a robust competitor in the social networking space, with 90 million users registering since its June launch.
But those numbers mask what’s really going on at Google+.
It turns out Google+ is a virtual ghost town compared with the site of rival Facebook Inc., which is preparing for a massive initial public offering. New data from research firm comScore Inc. shows that Google+ users are signing up—but then not doing much there.
Visitors using personal computers spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between last September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook each month over the same period, according to comScore, which didn’t have data on mobile usage.
Behind the lack of engagement are Google’s difficulties in differentiating Google+ from Facebook.
When Google+ launched last year, the Internet search giant positioned itas a Facebook competitor where people can share comments, articles, photos and videos with specific groups of friends and contacts.
While Google+ has some original features—including “Hangouts,” which lets people start a video conference with up to 10 people—analysts and some consumers say the distinction isn’t enough to lure Facebook members away and persuade them to build a network of contacts from scratch on Google+.
“Nobody wants another social network right now,” said Brian Solis, an analyst at social-media advisory firm Altimeter Group. For those who already use Facebook, “Google hasn’t communicated what the value of Google+ is,” he said.