Are you on Google+? Many brands and people have joined the network since its launch last year. However, the network keeps providing new features as it is still developing. Many argue that the network offers better opportunities for brands than Facebook does. Yet others believe Google+ still needs to improve a lot since its users only spent 3.3 minutes there in January, compared to 7.5 hours for Facebook.

Is Google+ doing social media right? It’s a bit difficult to answer this question before you have determined what “right” is. For the purpose of this blog, I think right should be defined not only as a high number of users, but also user engagement and successful brand campaigns. If Google+ wants to compete with the predominant social network Facebook, it may have to undergo some improvements. Mashable has referred to Google+ as a ghost town and coming from Mashable, that’s quite a hit.

So, for argument’s sake, let’s go with Mashable and agree that Google+ could still use some improvements. The first thing you’ll notice on Google+ is its design. It’s very “Googley” and it resembles Facebook’s design, prior to the Timeline launch. Although keeping the design simple and consistent with the brand is a good thing, it makes the network less appealing to the audience. Google could have a gone a bit more creative on the design while keeping it simple and consistent. Aside from the aesthetics, there are some functional flaws as well:

–          Apps: Google+ doesn’t actively use apps (anymore). This is a major missed opportunity for Google+ as many users on Facebook spend their time playing the games that the Facebook apps have to offer. Google+ did make an attempt to integrate games into the network, but it failed. Some would say this failure is due to a lack of understanding of social networks.

–          Complicated: Google+ is, unlike Facebook, very complicated to understand. Many people (including marketers) have no clue about where to start or what functions could benefit them in any way. It’s relatively easy to understand how the circles work, but what happens next? There are a lot of people who have publicly made negative comments about the usage of Google+. Many of these comments concern the how-to aspect. All new users should probably read a Google+ manual before engaging on the network.

–          Pages can’t add people: This could be one of the most frustrating features of Google+. Why aren’t business pages allowed to add regular users to their circles? A page can only add a person if this person had added the page first, or mentioned the page by using a ‘+’ or ‘@’ sign before the page’s username. Google+ would be a lot more interesting for brands if they had access to other users’ content. And more importantly, it would increase their visibility on the network. Google’s reason for this decision is probably that it wanted people to only receive content of the brands they choose to circle.

–          User activity: As mentioned before, Mashable called the network a ghost town based on its user activity. It’s not very likely that people will actively participate if none of their social contacts are doing the same. The network needs its users to return, instead of creating a profile and never coming back. Google definitely needs to improve in this area.

–          Incentives: The network doesn’t offer successful incentives, other than the fact that it may impact your search engine ranking. This is the most common reason for businesses to create a page on Google+. For regular users, the appeal could lie in the option “HangOuts,” which allows you to basically join a video chat.

If Google+ would work on its appeal, its incentives and moreover, getting users to return, it would be heading the right direction.

Are you on Google+? Do you think it can use some improvements or are you happy with the way it is now?