Monday, August 22, 2011

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

A few weeks back, Google issued every Google Plus subscriber 150 invitations. Almost immediately, the Pluserati were declaring victory over Facebook would happen in a matter of months if not sooner. With 25 million subscribers, they reasoned, each giving out 150 invitations, the ranks of Google Plus would swell blowing right past Facebook straight into the annals of social networking history.

Armed with my 150 invites and a slightly different perspective, I decided to run a little experiment. Those who follow my column may have read Come Join the Party  (published August 12) where my invitations were left out on the front porch like a big bowl of candy on Halloween night. At that time I made some fairly conservative assumptions about the distribution and take-up. Under these optimistic conditions my very simple calculations projected Google Plus would merely double, adding about 20 million new subscribers. This would have brought Google Plus to 45 million, hardly threatening the more than 750 million users of Facebook.

So here we are two weeks later and I am sorry to have to report that despite my best efforts, only three of my invitations were snapped up. The candy bowl still holds 147 more treats and I think Halloween is over.

Now if you recall (or click the link and go read it) my estimate was 2% to 3% take-up on the 150. Bingo. My experiment resulted in 3 out of 150 or exactly 2%. But we're not seeing headlines about Google Plus having picked up tens of millions of new subscribers. In fact, there have been no new subscriber reports since the widely publicized 25 million milestone. My guess is the 20% number was way high and far fewer subscribers went to the trouble as I did to put the invitations out there.

Yet scan the articles posted, shared and +1'ed by the current Google Plus subscribers and you will quickly see they are strong believers in this new social net. There is still no shortage of predictions for success. Just yesterday there was another article shared laying out the ten reasons why you will be using Google Plus by this time next year. So why did the faithful fail to propagate?

Without hard statistics it is difficult to prove, but I suspect most people (like me) who shared their invitations shared them with a network of people that significantly overlapped on itself. In other words, many people who read my column are already in Google Plus. Blogger statistics help bear this out. Over time it reports about 30% of my readership comes from Google Plus.

The other major sites referring readers to my columns are LinkedIn (32%) and Facebook (25%.)  This suggests a low switching rate from these other networks, not unexpected given the more "professional" nature of a LinkedIn user and the natural inertia of an entrenched Facebook user.

Doesn't appear my bowl will be emptied any time soon. I'll leave the candy on the front porch anyway. Help yourself.

Captain Joe

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