Time spent on Google+ dwindles while Pinterest draws growing user interest
Data from ComScore shows falling time spent on Google’s would-be Facebook rival, as bookmarking site Pinterest rises almost unnoticed to rival longer-established sites
By Charles Arthur
Pinterest boards: the fast-growing social network has fewer users than Google+ but they spend much longer there on average Photograph: Pinterest
While the media was getting obsessed with Google+… the world actually got interested in Pinterest. What’s more, Google’s nascent social network, despite having seen a growing number of signups, only managed to attract visitors for an average of 3 minutes in the entire month of January – and that was a fall from the 4 minutes it achieved in December.
New data from the web measurement company ComScore say that the figures for Google+ in the UK are even worse: having hit an average per user of 3.5 minutes for the month of December, that fell to 2.5 minutes in January.
Meanwhile Facebook remains the monolith of the web – taking almost 18% of people’s entire internet time in the UK during January. None of the other social networks managed more than 1% of UK “user minutes” for the same period; the blogging site Tumblr.com managed 0.55%, followed by Twitter, with 0.27%, and the “business social network” LinkedIn with 0.22%. Google+ and Pinterest both had 0.01% of total internet time, by ComScore’s figures.
Time spent on various sites (excluding Facebook), worldwide, January 2011-2012. Source: ComScore
While the figures for worldwide visitor numbers to Google+ are impressive – hitting 88.3m in January, not far behind LinkedIn’s 100m, though some way short of Twitter 181.8m (and Facebook’s 805m) – the brevity of visits, and the apparent fall in interest compared to December suggests that the company has not found a simple way to retain user interest.
By contrast, Pinterest, which attracted almost no media interest before 2012, and which has not announced signup figures, has seen steadily growing figures both for users and for time spent since May, says ComScore: in January 2012, 13.76m people worldwide visited, and spent an average of 89 minutes there. The pattern is repeated in the UK, where steady growth saw 250,000 Britons visit the site in January, and spend an average of 25 minutes for the month. That contrasts with Google+, whose UK figures showed 3.8m visitors spending far less time on the site.
The data will be uncomfortable reading for Google’s chief executive Larry Page, who has committed the search giant to focussing on “social search” to the extent that the company has been accused of skewing its search results to push Google+ content above the position that it would normally merit on previous Google algorithms.
Page made much of the number of Google+ signups during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings in January, saying that 90m had signed up and then added “Engagement on [Google]+ is also growing tremendously. I have some amazing data to share there for the first time. [Google]+ users are very engaged with our products. Over 60% of them engage daily and over 80% weekly.”
But that statistic, while appearing to make Google+ look attractive, in fact only means that those people use services like Google Search, Docs, Mail and other products with that frequency – not Google+ itself. The company has not released its internal data which would show how long people spend on the site, in contrast to Facebook.
Google is trying to get Google+ to rival Facebook and Twitter so that it can expand its advertising business; the two networks are increasingly protective of their content. Facebook prevents Google from indexing the majority of its content, while Twitter declined to renew a contract to provide its full “firehose” of tweets to Google when the two could not agree on how much Google should pay it for what would in effect be lost revenue from advertising to Twitter through the lack of visitors compared to the amount Google would earn from showing ads against searches which included Twitter content.
The ComScore data does come with caveats. Rather than coming directly from the sites themselves, it is estimated via a user sample who have a toolbar installed on their desktop or laptop PCs – and so does not record visits to sites made by people using tablets such as the iPad, or from mobile phones. Facebook and Twitter have significant use via mobile phones. It is unclear how much use Google+ gets from mobile phones; it is now built into Android phones, which have dominant market share worldwide, and is available on Apple’s iOS, the second best-selling smartphone OS.
The ComScore data also only offers a mean value – which may disguise large variations in the time people spend on sites. Some Google+ users report being very engaged with the network, spending hours on it – which implies that some of the visitors spend scant seconds on the site during the month.
Other sources suggest that Google+ is failing to engage users: speaking to the Wall Street Journal, John Schappert, the chief operating officer of games maker Zynga, known for its “social game” Farmville, said that the network had been “slow on the uptick with users right now”. Intel’s social media manager Ekaterina Walter said that response on Google+ was “not as great as were hoping it was going to be” and pointed to the fact that its Facebook page has millions of fans and gets thousands of comments – while the Google+ one gets dozens.
But inside Google, there is no alternative: Page has declared that staff bonuses will be dependent on the success of its social efforts – though it is not yet known what measures will be used to determine that success.
Facebook dominates web use both in terms of visitors
Visitors worldwide to Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Pinterest, Google+ January 2011-2012. Source: ComScore
And in time spent:
Time spent on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google+ and others, January 2011-2012. Source: ComScore