Try this exercise: when I say “three social networks,” which come to mind? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Maybe LinkedIn or YouTube? Those were the sites that came to mind for me. What is more important for purposes of this conversation is a site that may not have come to mind: Google+. In June 2011, Google launched their response to Facebook, and fan reception was somewhat underwhelming. Even despite a re-design in April 2012 that allowed for better page navigation, Google+ has remained an afterthought to many of its users. Or has it?
According to the Global Web Index (managed by UK market research firm Trendstream), Google+ actually ranks second among all social networks in Number of Active Users & Monthly Active Usage, beating out Twitter and every other network with the exception of Facebook. Their findings indicate that Google+ grew to over 343 million Active Users in 2012 (a 27% increase from 2011), and over 25% of those fans visit the site at least once per month.
The findings certainly surprise users who feel that Google+ fell by the wayside shortly after its release. I personally created a profile on the network but have failed to update it in months. However, it is important to consider the two main areas that drive Google+’s growth:
1. Google’s integration between products
When I signed up for YouTube, Google required that I use my Gmail account to do so versus any other. When I signed up for my Google+ page, I was required to use the same Gmail account. And just like that, all 3 platforms became linked to one another on purpose. Now, when I access YouTube, my feed looks like this:
What’s important to note is that I do not connect with these users on YouTube; I connect through Google+. Also, these videos appear on my YouTube feed as a result of my friends’ actions on Google+ (not on YouTube). Therefore, I engage with friends’ content from Google+ without accessing the site at all.
Now I did not opt-in to this “feature,” but I indirectly help drive the active user count on Google+ without even knowing it! This type of functionality will certainly affect other Google offerings, with search results featuring recommended results based on your Google+ network.
2. Growth outside of the U.S.
By looking at the below graph, the evidence is clear: growth among a number of global markets helps Google+ dramatically.
Although the U.S. presence grew moderately by about 75%, markets outside of North America have driven much of the growth for the social network. This can be attributed to Google’s global reach (which trumps the usage stateside) and the continued dominance of Android phones in the global market.
With numbers like this, the message is clear: do not ignore Google+, ESPECIALLY if you’re a Global brand. I am not saying that brands need to customize campaigns to Google+ just yet (Facebook will suffice for that), but much of the content brands create for Facebook & Twitter posts can also be easily broadcast on a branded Google+ channel. Will your number of fans rise meteorically? Not necessarily. However, those posts will help brands appear in Google search results and YouTube pages (among other products), so the reach of your custom branded content already increases by at least 300%. A brand will take that type of performance any day!