Since the launch of Google+ in 2011 there has been much speculation of whether Google+ would prove to be a serious social networking threat to Facebook.
The short answer is: no.
While Google+ has 29 million unique monthly users on its website and 41 million on smartphones, Facebook has 128 million users on its website and 108 million on phones. According to Nielsen, Facebook users spend on average more than 6 hours per month on site, while Plus users only spend 7 minutes per month on site. Furthermore the level of user engagement on Google Plus is about 35%, compared with Facebook’s 49% active usage.
So how has Google Plus gained over 1.15 billion registered users this year? Compared with Facebook’s 1.28billion, it would appear Google Plus is closing in on Facebook’s territory quicker than expected.
According to the NY times, Google Plus is not positioning itself as a social networking competitor to Facebook, rather the platform is designed to be central to Google’s future as “a lens that allows the company to peer more broadly into people’s digital life, and to gather an ever-richer trove of the personal information that advertisers covet.”
Indeed the rise of Google Plus is tied to Google’s other products, in other words:
“If you want Google search, they’re going to shove Google Plus at you pretty hard, so the consumer’s forced to take the product they don’t want to get the product they want,” – Tim Wu, Professor at Columbia Law School
So why are people signing up for Google+?
Google refers to Plus as an ‘authorship tool’, and what this means is that Plus is being used by Google to tie all of their products together, from Gmail to Youtube to the Google search engine. Google is leveraging their other products to get you to signup to a Google+ account. Essentially what this means is that if SEO is important to your business (and it usually is for businesses of all sizes with an online reach), you will signup for Plus to improve your SEO rankings. Google+ also allows you to syndicate your other social media platforms to your Google+ account, and of course your original post has to be published first on Plus, which is then shared across your other platforms. For this reason Google+ is very popular with content marketers and bloggers, and the fact that 70% of top 100 inter-brands are using Google+ suggests the platform is playing an increasingly central role in corporate marketing strategies, according to Forbes.com.
In short, Google+ is not competing with Facebook as the go-to platform for you to share your holiday photos and find out where your old school mates are now living. It is for anyone who is already using Google’s other products (most of us), who want to improve their SEO rankings in Google’s search engine. As Google begins to fully integrate Plus into their products, people will find themselves active users simply because they are already on the site.