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Why journalists call Google+ a "ghost town"
(Keep in mind I use Google+ all the time and it's my favorite social network. If anything, I'm biased for Google+, but I'm not blind.)

I kind-of like where this article ( is coming from (data!) but I think the argument is flawed. The truth is journalists don't have to use Google+ to know how popular it is. 

Everyone who writes stuff on the internet has access to some kind of extremely-detailed traffic analytics system. It's very easy for them to see post traffic from G+, Facebook, and Twitter, and the bottom line is, referrals from Google+ suck.

You want actual data? Sure. Let's look at some data. Ars has a relatively even presence on each social networks—automated posts go up on all 3 shortly after a post is made. Let's pick a relatively neutral story, like this heartbleed article from the other day ( ).

Twitter accounted for 49% of all social referrals.
Facebook accounted for 41% of all social referrals.
Google+ accounted for 5% of all social referrals.

This is what the numbers for most posts look like. This is where "Ghost town" comes from.

Let's pick another story type—one that all journalists dream of—a viral story. We'll use this article about hacking Steam sales data ( ). 

Social referrals:
Facebook: 63%
Twitter: 28%
StumbleUpon: 7%
Google+: 1%

StumbleUpon drove x7 more traffic than Google+. GHOST TOWN. 

Both of these are typical traffic examples. Ars has more followers on G+ (803k) than it does on Twitter (666k) or Facebook (194k), but the traffic just isn't there. For the month, G+ is 4% of social clicks. These are the facts. I'm sorry.

Yes, article traffic is not the total measurement of a social network, but it's a big one and it's the one we have very accurate, independent data for. Most of the Ars writers don't have active G+ pages, but they don't have public Facebook pages either, so those two are a fair comparison (journalists LOVE twitter for some reason).

Want the "Ghost Town" label to go away? Raiding the comments section and berating the author won't help. Repeating the "300 million active users—more than Twitter!" claim won't help. Journalists have hard traffic numbers that show them the truth. You've got to start clicking on and sharing stuff 10 times more than you are now. Then and only then will the "Ghost town" label go away.

A Ghost <3
Dee Silber's profile photoChris Phenomenal's profile photoMike Trieu (MegasChara)'s profile photoBrandon Butler's profile photo
Facts are driven by unicorn syrup. I smell the light and the potato blinded me. Great read and shared ten times with every other account Google made for me.
Jon L
I think its more that an avid G+ user is less likely to have to leave G+ via a link. I find tons of actual content here and google's algorithms do a pretty good job of placing thinga in my stream i actual read. Facebook for clickbait. G+ for content.
One reason I don't click through on G+ as often as Twitter is that G+, frequently, does not accurately display timelines from different publications/sites in chronological order. Twitter meanwhile always appears to be in specific accurate upload-time order. Nothing is as bad as FB when it comes to Feed chronology display, but I will see articles I clicked through and read appear days later on G+ than I saw them on Twitter.

Not sure if this has to do with Timeline/Feed manipulation by G+ or various uploading tools used by news sources/journalists.
I like it this way, because seeing 1000 reshare of the same +Ars Technica article will drive me nuts, so grateful that many Google plus users don't share journalists articles so easily like Twitter or Facebook 
+Ron Amadeo I think the meaning if ghost town was misinterpreted by the G+ community because most including me understand it as not having an engaded audience when using G+. In other words, when you sign up, there is nobody to follow and nobody is following you. It takes time and effort to get there.

What you're describing is the other side of the door that is G+. I could understand how one can come to that conclusion but it might greatly depend on what kind of people you find on each social network.

Anyway, thanks for sharing. It definitely makes an interesting point.
He's not blinded by anything, he's explaining the most probable reason every other journalist keeps saying this.
I don't know about anyone else, but usually when I read posts on G+, there is more content on the actual post than most other networks.
Definitely Twitter with its character limit forces users to click to sites to get the content, and for Facebook, well... I guess it has simply become practice to post half a paragraph then provide a link. Just from my own experience, I get to read actual content on G+ and then decide if clicking any link is of interest to me.

At least, that has been my experience.
I find that I use G+ for the feeds and headlines.... I already have most of the tech sites in my RSS feed. 
G+ has always been about content on G+ itself (good examples are all the photography enthusiasts here) and about thinking about what you share with a specific group of people (circle). So if the press is measuring the success of a Network on data how often people spam their timeline with links it's a pretty bad way in my opinion.
Also don't forget that G+ is very serious about their API for good reasons, which makes it a lot easier to share articles on FB and Twitter than G+ - at least for the iOS users.

Your numbers show the exact same...more followers on G+ but less sharing. People on G+ feel more responsible for their timeline than in other networks in my opinion. It's an important thing for the quality of a network.
+James Windsor the Facebook page is the same thing. The G+ page has 4x as many followers as the Facebook page, yet Facebook traffic is way better.
I don't like spamming my friends with tech news since few of them are techies.
+Ron Amadeo Your posts on G+ get a lot of interaction. Do you have any idea why that interaction doesn't follow thro to Ars? Most of the time I read and comment on G+ without following thro to the source unless I find it very necessary.
Is there a chance that it's a matter of catering to an audience?

For instance. Websites like viral Nova and buzz feed write intentionally click baity headlines that get shared on FB constantly. Like to the point of annoyance. Their short and provocative nature drive those... We'll call them the technologically disinclined... Viewers like no one's business. However, those same headlines and excerpts don't do as well on G+ because, well, we have a much lower number of technologically disinclined people who identify such content as the pic dumping trash it is.

It seems like blogs and people who do well on G+ cater specifically to this audience. Most of my articles have a higher G+ click rate and my FB and Twitter numbers suck. To whit, I have 42000 followers on G+ and about 1/42 of that combined on other networks.

To someone like me, G+ is a vibrant, thriving atmosphere whereas somewhere like Twitter appears to be a sodding, disorganized mess... But to a place like Ars, G+ looks like the ghost town and Twitter looks much better.

I cater to a different audience than Ars. We both cater to a different audience than viral Nova. All our social media numbers are different. So my guess (and it's a guess) is that maybe blogs that don't do well on G+ simply haven't taken the appropriate measures to adapt to their audience. And it's the same for me and the other two networks. I (and blogs/bloggers like me) definitely haven't adapted to catering to those audiences and my numbers there are in the toilet. Without G+ I'd probably still be waiting tables somewhere and not writing full time like I do now. 

The same blogging strategies to drive traffic don't work on all 3 social networks. Perhaps the real problem is a failure to adapt to the site rather than a failure to the site itself. 
Yet Google Search brings more hits than Facebook and Twitter combined. 
Also only ~2% of my friends have and use Google+, so yeah it is a Ghost Town. Just like Nexus devices, none of my friends have one. Its funny actually, how the king of online advertisment can't get people to use it's own products/services. Sometimes I think they just don't care. 
I think that it work in this way, that on Twitter if you want to know about it what was posted you must follow the link, other way you have only 140 characters - link. 
Similary on FB most of shared things/likes goes without any comment from person who share. So people need to follow link. Only on Google+ most of shared content goes with rather long description and usually reading this description is all what need to be done.
This is observation only from my streams on Google+, FB and Twitter, so it don't must be a true for all, but I guess that Google+ users are less clickers, more readers ;-)
I think the traffic just showcases the behavior of the common user.

Do you have numbers as in x% of y users of this nework accounted for z% of all social referrals?
Because I'm under the impression that G+ has more constructive discussion compared to the other two.. Facebook and Twitter, especially Twitter, are more for just sharing content.. Maybe G+ has to establish itself as a news stream. (It already is my main feed, because it's the best designed out of the three...)

Also this may say that the Google+ user doesn't read the article- instead he's just blabbering about the headlines.

We seem to know that G+ is no ghost town... It is more of a social referral graveyard.
+Solomon Asare I'm sure my G+ followers do follow through to Ars, but the issue is that it's a relatively small number compared to the other social networks. 

I'm sure you'll see people blaming the Ars G+ page or my G+ page for the traffic as some kind of counter argument, but most social traffic comes from "grassroots" sharing that doesn't happen as a result of the author page or the site page. Stuff gets shared on Twitter and Facebook naturally, regardless of promotion, and that's where most of the numbers come from.

1 site page and 1 author page is nothing compared to the size of a whole social network.
My issue is that (on the Mobile app) I cannot share a story to other social media
Of course Google+ is less active, because we don't have the "please like, share, retweet, etc" begging here. It became a niche, serious network for content creators, I hope it'll stay that way.
Google+ is my go to app for just about anything, particularly tech news. But the fact is I simply don't know anyone that actively uses it other than me. I know some people that have opened the android app once in order to enable photo backup, but that's it. Most people seem to not even know what Google+ is.
Here's my use of social media vis a vis article links. I click on them when my interest forces me to. If a post catches my eye I read it. If there isn't enough information in the post for me to get the gist of what the author is saying, or the content is just too fascinating to walk away from I'll click the link to the full article. Twitter with it's 140 character limiter virtually guarantees that little meaningful content can be communicated. Facebook is a nonentity to me anymore but I remember it to be just about as frustrating as Twitter even though the post's were longer. Google+ post are rich more like a blog post and authors naturally are more expansive. Since the posts are generally satisfying there is much less need to click through. Therefore IMO if you want to increase click through to the native article you need to make the social experience kinda sucky. Thus the higher rate of social referrals on Twitter and Facebook...just my .02
+Ron Amadeo Do you have any data for how the articles that you write and link to in g+ do relative to twitter?
+Ethan B. Lots of posting and sharing goes on on G+ that is not a click through and is stuff like text posts, comments, gifs, memes, or pictures, but everything I could say in defense of Google+, I would say about Facebook.

Twitter is purely a traffic driving thing because the posts are too short for anything else. So while Twitter is not a good comparison, Facebook is, and despite all the baby pictures and other internal-only posts that go on over there, it still drives traffic.
+Dabu Xian I would love for G+ to be a "serious network for content creators," but for that I would need the stuff I've been begging for since launch, like text links and inline pictures.

Most of the stuff I write wouldn't work on Google+ because the formating is too limiting. All I'm asking for is the same controls as a basic forum or email client.
You're kinda missing the point of google+ . You're comparing a conversation platform to linking platforms using linking analytics. I wonder if +Ars Technica would post the article rather than just a link on google+ where the engagement would be better. Ars or google+? But that is all dependent on what your goal is, to inform and create discussion or clicks on your ads.
Thanks for writing this up, Ron. It's nice to finally get an essentially unbiased, data-driven perspective on the "ghost town" label. (For that matter, it's interesting to see some real data on G+ usage in general other than follower counts or +1s.)
+Luke Olson sincerely, no offense intended here, but I think you're the one missing the point. Read the title of the post again. The whole purpose of his article was to explain why journalists have the perspective they do about G+. Maybe journalists are foolish take this perspective (though I don't think they are), but that's not the point. The point is to relate an insider's perspective, which he does very well.
Good points made here. However I don't believe when the media refers to Google+ they are looking at referrals. If they are they don't make that apparent to the readers. I could be wrong and if so let me know.
Automated posts? Why didn't you say so?! Those are just begging to be interacted with! They practically scream "Great discussion here!" /s
The sole purpose of a social network is not to drive people to third party pages. If the network is generating content of any value, users should want to spend more time on it.
People on Facebook and Twitter share posts without reading most of the times.. Where as on g+ they might not reshare but the discussions that happen is better and more in depth. There was a test done on Facebook where the article was blatantly fake (purposely) and the amount of reshares it got without even being read was a joke. People reshares links blindlessly on fb and twitter. imo people on g+ may not reshare or anything but they certainly get involved in discussions. If that's considered ghost town then I'll take good discussion over mindless resharing anyday. the real point is fb was built around resharing where as Google intentionally built g+ around discussion. 
I don't get that G+ users somehow, in some way, feel like they always have to defend or justify their use of the platform. Can't we just use whatever we prefer? Just my opinion. I totally respect other peoples views.
If journalists are just analyzing & comparing social usage in terms of referrals, that explains where they're coming from. Fine. Clearly they're missing the point. How can we help them, +Ron Amadeo? Or should we bother?
It's just a social network for geeks.
lets say your premise is true. i.e "g+ has low referral traffic for news articles". does that make it a less of social network? a ghost town?  

if that were the case instagram would be a ghost town. last time i checked instagram is the darling of the media and its cool to hate on g+.

i think the problem is lousy/lazy/corrupt journalism and how google has failed to grab the narrative and mishandled a lot of things in its aggressive push for g+ adoption.

do people remember how fb was busted in 2011 for hiring a PR firm to plant negative stories against google? i suspect something like that happened here and the whole "g+ is a ghost town" meme started. then a lot of lazy tech journalists jumped on the bandwagon giving this silly meme a life. meanwhile google botched up many things on the way (e.g mandatory g+ profiles, failure to consolidate multiple gmail accounts resulting in empty profiles, alienating youtube community, unnecessary interface changes etc) which made g+ harder to use for some people and fell right into the hands of the g+ haters....

its hard to give the tech journalists a pass b/c their reporting has been sensationalist click baiting, devoid of nuance and sometimes even ridiculous (g+ has 7 million active users one of them claimed).
+Ron Amadeo A good example I remember is a german radio station. They joined G+ early, but after some months they had a statement that they would quit G+ because they have the feeling that nobody uses it compared to Facebook. They got a lot of feedback from their listeners which made them think, so they asked their listeners "why" there was less engagement on G+ and what the G+ users would like to see.

They listened to the feedback which had mostly to do with their behavior and that they treated G+ as a "second" social network. They posted just links or cross-posts, but never engaged with their readers here or replied to comments. They thought a few days about it and then gave G+ a second chance..with more engagement...the same engagement they gave to Facebook. Today they have still less follower on G+ (9.642 on G+ vs 40.761 likes on Facebook)  but the engagement of their listener is about the same. Sometimes a story gets more comments on Facebook, and sometimes more on G+. A recent post of them had 8 comments on FB vs 217 Comments on G+.

In my opinion it all depends how they treat a platform and if they adapt to it. If they throw their links just into hootsuite and share it with all three networks it will be most likely that they see much less engagement on G+ - people expect something different here.  

I also think that there is more value in a social network for a website than just links. When I read a website on a regular basis it doesn't only has to do with the pure content, but also with the Author, sympathy and if I trust the source. You can get that "repuation" pretty easily on social networks with private posts and thoughts, but it's much harder to gain the same on a website. 

My personal sharing behavior on G+ is pretty selective. I've german and english followers, so I've to be careful that neither get annoyed by too many links in the other language. Same about topics..tons of photographers but also some geeks. The last thing I want to do is to spam my photography followers with tons of Android news that I'm interested in but  they're not interested in. Usually I tend to share more one man blogs or unique stuff that most people might not have seen throughout the day, than content that has already gone through many other blogs and websites. I just expect that tech interested people already follow one of the big tech sites and the stories they cover are all almost the why should I share it?

Which ends again in my point that I think that G+ users share more selectively and feel more responsive for their timeline. A Twitter for example with it's limited 140 characters doesn't allow much interaction and conversations, people are way more anonymous and less engaged on a regular basis with each other. They might not feel as responsible for their followers than here where people engage a lot in comments with each other. 
Lame. Google+ was not created in order to increase page views on blog sites. If you're a blogger calling Google+ a ghost town because of referral traffic statistics, well... you're simply doing it wrong. 
Speaking for myself, Google+ is my preferred social media for news because it posts snippets. That allows me to accurately gauge how interested I am in an article - specifically, it helps me weed out those articles that would otherwise be a waste of time.

Do I click fewer links on Google+? Absolutely. That's what I like about it.
So what you're saying is the other networks bring more ad money from visits so they get promoted, and its not about the quality of the articles written or the user engagement / experience. Makes sense. 😕
+Jacob Thompson G+, frequently, does not accurately display timelines from different publications/sites in chronological order. 
Date filter for a “best of” search
Can we get a date filter for a “best of” search? I don’t want to be getting posts from 2011 and 2012.
You can do this in YouTube now: e.g. add a “this week” filter under “upload date”, and combine that with a “rating” or “view count” filter under “sort by”. That could give you the “best” videos of the week for the term(s) that you searched for.
More fundamental question: Why don't tech journalists know more about how Google+ actually works for active users? If they do know more than they're saying in these articles, why aren't they writing about it?
+Ron Amadeo great points. I agree social clicks is lacking on G+ but for an intentionally Google-inclusive social platform like G+ social clicks isn't a strong signal. Yes people should use it more but I guarantee it won't silence anti-google journos. One other problem with your post: You only site Ars as an example, which isn't a good data set to make your point. Ars may have heavier and more active twitter/fb/stumbleupon user than G+.
If a news site is always bashing G+ what's the incentive for G+ users to give them traffic let alone engage with their content?
We are the one percent. Haters gonna hate. 
irish d
I would hate for the ones I'm following to be sharing 10x more than they are doing now. I can hardly keep up with my stream. Yes we are ghost in the sense we don't always share everything we see. I also tend to head to the source where the bigger party is. Why reshare something you know a lot of people will already have in their stream. That seems to be the craze in twitterland, not here. Journalists may hate us for not sharing more but i think it's abnormal to be sharing so much. I like g+ just the way it is. 
I'd imagine +Ron Amadeo's site uses an automated sharing service like the site I work for does (though I use Buffer for the site's articles and forum threads), and we get similar results. Though our following on Twitter is close in numbers to our following on G+, we get about 20 times as much traffic from our tweets as we do from our G+ posts.
The other thing is most G+ users are smart enough to know who populates their circles.. Do I need to share Android stories with my circles filled with Android users. This is the benefit of having circles. People is your circles have common interests and therefore read and share common stories. I left Facebook years ago but when I was there that type of granular control was not available. Family members and friends feel compelled to click your shitty story you have shared with nobody who cares 
I wonder if social shares are the right metric to use though? The Google+ paradigm is about sharing content within the platform, not about driving traffic to other places. I could write a thousand word essay here within these comments. Or I could write a thousand word essay on my blog, Tweet about it, and send readers to my blog. That doesn't mean more people have read it, in fact, probably less.
The other side of the g+ coin, how much traffic are you getting from Google search because you submitted the articles through G+?
+Ron Amadeo So your saying it's a Ghost town in terms of clicks, but I could easily say that the other social networks are Ghost towns in terms of post activity.I see more post activity on an article here on Google+ more than on Facebook.

Maybe Google+ is a Ghost town in terms of clicks because most people here already read articles through apps like Feedly or just by going to the websites. Then we discuss about the article here on the Google+ post, it's simple we just get to the information in a different way than most other social networks.
Want the "Ghost Town" label to go away?...You've got to start clicking on and sharing stuff 10 times more than you are now

Awesome. When I'm at a party, I always measure social success by how many articles I can tell my friends about. Nope.

Quality over quantity, Ron. There's a reason click-bait journalists aren't shared much on Google+, and it's not low numbers, nor low engagement.
You know I'm kinda glad g+ isn't Facebook. I love it just the way it is. People are more mature over here than compared to Facebook, less trooling and well less is more imho. 
It's weird because I remember a post from +JR Raphael that showed the amount of interaction from the "big 3" social media sites and g+ came out on top, by a large margin 
The majority of comments I've read (and it read them all) seem to say that G+ hosts more in depth, engaging discussion in its comments than on the sites themselves. +Ron Amadeo more and more websites are using Disqus. There is a comment system via G+ but it's still in its very early infancy. Given the comments here about engagement, do you think sites would see different numbers if a full fledged G+ comment system was created for blogs to utilize? 
+J Schwartz is right about that... Too many people arent active enough... Not inactive like twitter when people use it as a read only... But people that use one every few months
+Mawdo Jawo I agree...reshares aren't going to get the growth. It needs to be people getting info and bringing it into G+. I think many avid g+ users tend to spend more time in g+ vs bringing stuff in
Journalists like Twitter, because it allows celebrities and politicians to do their work for them. G+ users like it because their streams aren't filled with all of the pointless random posts and memes like Facebook 
It is nice to be rid of 'journalists' especially since most seem intent on selling a self-profitable package of B.S.
I'm not super familiar with how website referral tracking works, so this is probably a dumb question. But... How are mobile referrals handled? If I tap an article link from within the G+ app, does the website see the same G+ referral as if I'd done it from the desktop?
It's funny, I'll actually click on an article and then come back to G+ to comment on the article. It feels much more conversational in the comment section here. All this said, I agree that sites and people need to work on their effort here. Nothing worse than a link here that goes to a Facebook page. On the other hand, making the effort to put a GIF in their post rather than a stock image from an article gives me extra incentive to engage a given post and follow them more, even though it may mean I don't click through.
Google + seems to be more intellectual than other social sites. not knocking facebook but nothing to learn there 
How many referrals to the ars site came from Google Reader before it was shut down? 
Google Plus is stronger, manageable and prettier than facebook. There's nothing like it. Facebook is a mess.
So I'm a googler Ghost :)
This is all correct when measuring referrals but I do think that less is more and the content is so much better on G+ not to mention the audience is/has potential to be so much more targeted. One interacts with like minded individuals on certain topics unlike Facebook and G+ has the most powerful social search yet.

The main drive for a journalist to be heavily engaged with G+ is in preparation for the next big algorithm change. Those with authorship and engagement in communities, large circles, solid reputation and influence will excel and we will see many who refuse to acknowledge G+ disappear.
The problem is that most journalists don't use standardized metrics like unique visitors. If they were to simply pull their comScore numbers, they would have the answer there looking for. The shared and +1's only come from content that people like to see if they see it.
Looks like Google is making users use Google+ for other services like YouTube. I wonder what impact that will have on Google+ in the future. Also, Google+ helps with SEO. At the moment, Google+ holds a lot more potential for exposure than Facebook right now. - +Joe Gullo @ Pixel Insights.
Or G+ users don't blindly click linkbait. 
Well, they're not going to get any useful referral data from a user of the mobile apps.

(But they probably don't care about mobile users anyway.)
What +Leif Sikorski and +James Windsor say. You can't (well, at least you shouldn't) compare Google+ and Facebook. Your biggest misunderstanding seems to be that you can't just copy/paste your Social Media Strategy (do you have one?).

The number of followers on G+ means NOTHING. You have to engage. You have to follow your (most important) followers and expand your "extremely-detailed traffic analytics system" with special tools like +NOD3x or +SumAll to identify and reach your most important influencers and multipliers. You have to share, comment and answer to comments. Everyones stream on G+ is filtered and depends on different key factors.

Geez, you don't even plus the 5, 10 or 20 shares of your posts? Didn't your Social Media Guy tell you that this could be a way to say "Thank you, we recognized you!"?

Your numbers only prove that you - and not Google+ - are doing it wrong. You blame the tool and refuse or miss to learn how to use it. That's a shame, because 800K followers would deserve more attention than a V2F ratio of 24 (!!).
G+ having less click throughs could be a matter of the contents itself. In FB and Twitter most pages and people just share links and peope are accustomed to clicking on them to read anything. But on G+ the posts contain actual content, like this post of yours +Ron Amadeo all the content of this post is here itself, no one has to click through anything to read the entire post. There are the kind of posts that drive G+ and people engage with these posts more than just posts with a link and a heading.. 
+Prem Suraj +Ars Technica doesn't even have a heading. They do not even have a text, just the link. Oh, wait ... do you just drop these links with a tool, automatic?
12 hours later, I feel bad for the people responsible for the 329 +1s, 70 shares and 97 comments. They should know that their interaction with this post doesn't count because it probably didn't drive much traffic to an external website. 
+Google+ is +Google+ , nothing else compares, so stop wasting your time trying to copy-paste your links here, either manually or automated. Post high quality content that sparks people's interest and maybe, just maybe, you will find that more users will click-through to get the rest of your article. Work for it and G+ will work for you!

Put some effort into engaging with the audience here on G+ and you will receive much better results. 
A village is a ghost town if you distribute its population to an empty city. 
I'm not sure I want the ghost town label yo go away. I want G+ to flourish but not at the cost of it turning into another facebook. I really really dislike Facebook and I come on G+ to get away from all the shit posting that goes on and actually read some interesting stuff that doesn't always turn into a hate fest.
What a quandary.
Also, how would you like the world of plus if you had every ridiculous jackass from Facebook here?
”I love you, my dude! Stay cool bro!” 
I dunno about the rest of you, but I always run Ghostery, even on mobile, so your analytics don't count for anything when I visit. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Oh, and +Ars Technica hasn't posted anything I'm interested in for quite some time, present company excluded. That, and just throwing links over the wall turns me off more than anything. If the author isn't going to take the to have a conversation here, why should I honor them with a click?
Fresh data in a nutshell what Google+ is all about for you to discuss in a logical and practical way. My V2F Google+ V2F 32,610 with 6 followers 195,665 views. Now go for it for enlightenment of Google+ on the internet.
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