I am quite amused by Alexis Madrigal’s story How Google Can Beat Facebook Without Google Plus. This is one of the best article talking about the deep reasons why a product succeed or fail.
He mentioned California City, CA. Although it is the largest city by land in CA, it only has 15K residents – 1/10 of the number in residential area I am living. The California city has all the infrastructure a great city needs to have, but, it is just an empty city. People gather because of other people, not the infrastructure.
Websites face the same problem. Most websites have in place before the first 100 visitors come to the site, but the problem is, the only problem is, people!
But by most accounts and third-party research, the service is growing its number of users but not their engagement. People are “on” Google Plus, but they are not really ON Google Plus. The infrastructure is there. The street signs are there. People own plots of land. But there’s nobody actually visiting town. To make it obvious: Google Plus is the California City to Facebook’s Los Angeles.
Basically, people are saying, Google+ is a ghost town.
Considering the same thing on other websites, including my own, the core of the sites are people. Internet connects people. When the real people are there, the infrastructure supports, not the other way.
Time on site
Time on site is an important indicator of how people use the product. Google+ has 3 minutes per month. Facebook has 405, Pinterest has 89, and Trumblr is 89 too. (src)
John Herman even mentioned that Google+ “looks like a cubicle farm and smells like a hospital.” How can a product smells like a hospital?
Why John Herman describe it as a hospital? Because of the clean and clear interface? The technical thinking behind it?
A website is built for people to “USE”! Use means spend time on it. Use means getting back frequently, not by accident, not by clicking links that they randomly run into.
Seamless is a Bad Word
When I talked with my friend in Google about Google+, I heard the word Seamlessly often.
You search, and your search queries get to G+ seamlessly. You use Picasa, and your photos integrate into G+ seamlessly. You do x, and you do y, and all these things are synced into G+ seamlessly.
Seamlessly means unconsciously. Seamlessly means they are not intentionally using the site. That explains why classifieds search does not work, and many aggregation sites does not work, because people don’t have the intention to have their content shown on the page. They have no idea about what they share when they “unconsciously” share it.
A community is not about content aggregation. It is about consciously participation. If people see what others are saying, and post intentionally, that is the core of the community.