The Persistent Google+ Ghost Town Myth

Since its launch in 2011, there have been articles every couple months declaring Google+ a ghost town. However, the numbers indicate otherwise. So why does the myth persist?


Google launched its G+ social network in 2011, and it only took two days for someone to declare it totally empty. Since then, there’s been a new article declaring Google+ a ghost town roughly a monthly basis. Why does this myth persist when all the statistics say that there’s growth?

According to Google, there are 540 million monthly active users on Google+ across Google services, 300 million active in the stream, and these people are uploading 1.5 billion photos a week. That sounds like a pretty inhabited and noisy ghost town. Facebook boasts 1.23 billion active users, so Google+ seems to pale in comparison. But Twitter’s official monthly active user count is only 241 million. And nobody would categorize Twitter as quiet.

Once a dominant position has been established, it’s hard to break out of the cycle that says Google+ is dead. It becomes the lens through which all news is viewed. Even two years and nine months later, ‘Ghost Town’ is the default phrase writers jump to.

New York Times contributor Claire Cain Miller argues that the value in Google+ is merely as a source of further information for Google to tailor its other services. “[T]he information it gains about people through Google Plus helps it create better products — like sending traffic updates to cellphones or knowing whether a search for “Hillary” refers to a family member or to the former secretary of state,” she write.

And why wouldn’t Google use user data internally to deliver targeted search? Google’s primary source of revenue is advertising, and with more targeted advertising comes better click rates. Search results and integration across services also improve — and all of this is aimed at a better user experience. It’s a symbiotic relationship that benefits both the company and the users.

Some may balk when it comes to advertising on social media, especially Facebook’s brand of auto-starting video ads. However, Google+ itself remains ad free. Hangouts and Picasa are a very useful tools that were built into the system from the beginning, and everything works together nicely. In fact, Google provides a whole host of collaborative tools that seem to keep it’s users happy.

Is it so difficult to believe that after several false starts, Google finally created a successful social network? While writers like Miller are worried about power creep and antitrust violations, active users don’t seem to have let those concerns spoil their fun. There are plenty of users with accounts they never use, but to say that the Google+ user base is non-existent is simply not true.

Image credit: clasesdeperiodismo