Google + users are still signing on, but they’re still not staying for long periods of time, suggesting the fledgling social network has work to do before it can be a viable Facebook challenger.
According to Experian Hitwise, Google+ users now spend an average of five minutes and 47 seconds per visit on the site. This duration isn’t dropping, but it’s not growing, either. Hitwise said time spent on the site peaked in the week of July 16, at five minutes and 50 seconds.
These numbers suggest that while some users applaud Google’s new service for having features that protect their privacy and for its video chatroom capabilities, Google+ has not yet caught on with social networking users.
Another part of the problem may be that Google+ is still in a limited, invite-only beta release. People are slow to embrace social networking sites if their friends aren’t using the site as well, and since millions more people still use Facebook, people for now are staying where their friends are.
Google+’s usage might also remain stagnant because it requires people to use their real names, or risk having their profiles removed. Facebook also encourages people to use their real names, but doesn’t really enforce that rule. Privacy advocates complain about Google’s stance on this issue, saying it could violate users’ rights, but Google says it will remain firm on the real-name issue.
Google had originally marketed the social network as being more privacy-minded because of the real names policy, and touted its Circles system as well, which helps users control who sees their posts.
However, Facebook last week rolled out new privacy measures, including the ability to separate information into group pages, meaning users can control who sees what posts.
Another problem with Google+’s lower numbers may be that the site is not yet open to celebrities or businesses. Part of Facebook’s success centers around its celebrity pages, and many businesses find they can promote themselves and earn money through the site.
Google+ may well attract some of its users to stay online longer through its new game offerings. Earlier this month, Google+ added a game service, including such popular offerings as Rovio’s “Angry Birds.” As people discover the games, they may not only stay online to play but invite their friends as well, which may help Google+ attract users likely to remain on the site longer.
Google+ reviews are mostly positive. However, it’s apparent from Hitmark’s numbers that while a lot of people have signed on for the social network, it still has a long way to go before it can truly challenge Facebook’s dominance.