One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Blain wrote a piece this past week that made me take notice. Entitled “Google+ Is Now The Number 2 Social Network For Active Users,” Amanda shared some data from British analytics company, globalwebindex indicating that in Q4 2012 Google Plus had surpassed all platforms except Facebook to become the #2 social network in the world.
Google Plus is probably not as popular as this study indicates (I’ll detail the reasons why), but the plausibility that Google Plus could surpass Twitter or Pinterest reinforces how powerful a social network it has become.
The big problem that I have with this data-set is the incredible increase that took place in a small period of time. In February 2012, ComScore reported that users were spending 3.3 minutes a month on Google Plus, and in its report “State of Social Media 2012,” Neilsen ranked G Plus 7th in PC users and 4th in mobile app users. If Neilsen’s numbers are to believed, Google Plus would have had to have increased their audience by 23 million active users in three months. That’s not an unprecedented number: Facebook increased at a higher rate during Sheryl Sandberg’s first three years at the company. But they did so with monthly time on site nearly 100 times greater than Google Plus.
There’s also an observed element that may indicate that Google Plus probably hasn’t yet surpassed Twitter. Despite the popularity of Hangouts, there doesn’t appear to be a mainstream movement towards Google Plus. Twitter seems to be filling a microblogging niche that I haven’t observed mainstream media or personalities embracing with Google Plus…. although G Plus certainly has momentum. And it’s worth remembering that Google Plus rolled out its communities feature in the time-frame that globalwebindex claims Google Plus had a growth spurt.
It remains to be seen if G Plus is gaining users at the expense of other networks. I disagree with the analysis that it is coming at the expense of Pinterest or Tumblr (and Neilsen’s State of Social seems to substantiate that opinion). It would be shocking for Pinterest to gain 1000% of its active user base from 2011 to 2012 and then to be decimated by a network that isn’t a reasonable facsimile. Same goes for Tumblr, which is very strong in younger demographics.
According to GPlus Data, Google Plus is still 65% male (which is a social anomaly) and only 1/3 of its users are from the U.S. (though that number is probably under-reported). So despite its momentum and the possibility that it could surpass Twitter, it still remains a bit of an enigma.
Regardless of whether globalwebindex’s data is correct or not, the consensus opinion seems to be that people should be taking Google Plus seriously. In one year, G Plus has grown to the point that there is a lot of value in the network. The addition of Communities, assimilation of Places and affiliation with Google should be more than enough reason for Plus to continue its growth spurt.
What do you think about Google Plus? Do you believe it is bigger than Twitter? Is its success at the expense of another social network?