Google+ launched brand pages six months ago, introducing new social lingo, including "hangouts," "circles" and "+1s." But strike up a conversation with a digital marketer these days, and talk of "+1s" has been replaced by that of "pins."
Rather than challenge Facebook and Twitter for mindshare, Google is a distant fourth to Pinterest, with its "pin it" button now appearing alongside Facebook, Twitter and email buttons on prime web real-estate such as eBay and Amazon product pages.
Even the platform's "best" brands haven't put a ton of effort into building out the pages. Nissan, for example, was lauded late last year for having one of the best new Google+ brand pages, even down to the animated GIF in its header image that gives the illusion of a car speeding by . Nearly 424,000 users have added the page to their "circles" (Google+ lingo for following a person or brand) and yet Nissan's agency decided early on not to invest in developing content specifically for the page, which mostly contains repurposed content from Facebook.
"The bottom line was that it was pretty bleak in its traffic," said Brandon Kleinman, director of social media and strategy at TBWA/Chiat/Day.
The broad consensus is that Google+ is an empty city where the masses go to set up a profile but then seldom return.
Still, Google is continuing to double down on the investment from both a product and a marketing standpoint. It has rolled out seven unique TV spots to promote the platform since December, according to Ace Metrix, which tracks and evaluates ad creative and, earlier this month, launched an iPhone app and the ability for any user to set up a "hangout on air" to broadcast video chats to an unlimited audience.
There's evidence of some -- if not exactly Facebook-size -- engagement. According to an analysis by the analytics firm Simply Measured, 64 of the top 100 global brands named by Interbrand in 2011 have Google+ pages, up from 61 when the platform was a month old in December. It found that 22 brands have been added to circles by more than 100,000 users, up from zero in December. Google is touting successes such as that of the Cadbury U.K. page, which organized three hangouts on air in March and saw its follower base grow by 150,000 afterward, according to a case study published by Google.
But there are also brands, such as Pizza Hut, Visa and Heineken, which have created pages but haven't posted anything since.