Last year, many people dismissed Google's Google+ social network as a "virtual ghost town." That was then. This is now. According to GlobalWebIndex, Google+, with 343-million active users, has become the second largest social network globally. As Vic Gundotra, Google's senior VP of engineering, observed, "That is a lot of ghosts"
Facebook is still the biggest of the social networks by a large margin. By GlobalWebIndex's count Facebook has almost 700-million active users. The research group defines active users as those who used or contributed to a site in the past month
All three of the major global social networks, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are growing by leaps and bounds. "Data collected in GWI.8 (Q4 2012) demonstrates the continued shift in usage from localized social platforms to global ones with huge growth for Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. The fastest growing network in 2013 in terms of “Active Usage” was Twitter which grew 40% to 288m across our 31 markets (approximately 90% of global Internet population). 21% of the global Internet population now use Twitter actively on a monthly basis. This compares to 21% actively using YouTube, 25% actively using Google+ and a staggering 51% using Facebook on a monthly basis."
Even with Twitter's growth, however, "Google+, who despite being branded a failure or ghost town by large portions of the media, grew in terms of active usage by 27% to 343m users to become the number 2 social platform. Interestingly for Google, YouTube (not previously tracked by us as a social platform) comes in at number 3, demonstrating the immense opportunity of linking Google’s services through the G+ social layer. This is also a key indication of why Google+ integrated with the Google product set is so key to the future of search and the Internet."
Indeed so, I've long thought that Google's integration of Google Plus into many of its services would lead to massive growth. But, just because people using Google services such as Gmail or YouTube got a Google+ membership didn't mean they'd actually use the service. So, what I find more interesting is that GlobalWebIndex's data indicates that Google+s' members are actively using the social network rather than just their attached Google services.
Mind you, I don't find this much of a surprise. I'm a member of most of the popular social networks and Google+ is easily my favorite of them.
Where is Google+'s growth coming from? It's not at the expense of Facebook or Twitter. Instead, like them, Google+ is cannibalizing smaller, local social networks. "The growth in the large, global social platforms is coming broadly at the expense of local services like MeinVz, Hyves, Copains d’Avant. Even more interestingly, we are seeing a large decline across the board in local Chinese services with Tencent Weibo, Kaixin, Sina Weibo and QZone all declining substantially, up to 57% in the case of Tencent Weibo."
Looking ahead, it appears that the global networks, led by Facebook, Google+, Twitter and YouTube, will all continue to grow at the expense of the local social networks. Will Google+ eventually catch-up and pass Facebook? Possibly, but it won't be soon. Even with privacy concerns and annoying notifications, Facebook is continuing to maintain its dominant position.