Google+: Are we riding the wave?

Google+ is everywhere.

Everyone wanted to be on it.  We grovelled for invitations, longingly staring at our inboxes with the impatience of children on Christmas Eve.  We read article after article, preparing ourselves for the new tools, familiarising our tongues with new terms and limbering up our profile writing skills.

So now that Google+ has hit 10 million users are we actually using it?  Apparently not.  According to Experian Hitwise the average user spends only 5 minutes using the new social network.

But why?  Google+ seems to have everything you could want from a social network.  You can divide your connection into private communication circles (a bit like Facebook groups), you can follow people you have never met in real life (like Twitter), you can video chat (like on Skype – and now Facebook), and businesses have be promised special company pages (once again like Facebook).  It even seems to encroach a bit on Flickr’s territory with a smattering of photo sharing, and just last week Google announced its release of some Foursquare-like badges earned from searching.

From the outside Google+ and its related tie-ups seem to be the full package.  With so much technology and integration it’s been purpose built to link up your offline experiences with your online life.

But I suspect that this is actually the problem…  How are you actually meant to use Google+?  Is it a professional platform or a personal one?

Technically if you use circles correctly if can be both, but I suspect Google may be trying to spread itself too thinly.  It’s not that the tools aren’t up to scratch – in fact, aside from an early bug or two they seem pretty stable – instead it’s that users just aren’t sure exactly how to approach the network.

I’ve seen many people flock to the site, scramble around create a few Circles, post the “Wow, isn’t Google+ really cool” first update, and then go quiet, slipping into the shadows of the social network watching and waiting to see how other people use it.

Some people thought that Google Wave was going to be huge, until is crashed spectacularly onto the shores of the social web and vanished… The positive for Google+ is that is seems to have found a foothold with it’s integration, but it needs its users to actually use its functions for it to really succeed and make a lasting impression.  And for that, only time will tell…