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How Many People Use Google Plus?

There is a small storm in a teacup about how many people use G+. Google says 170 mil have "upgraded to G+." Ok. Facebook says it has 800 mil "active." So is Active = Upgraded? Is active number logging into FB every 30 days? What about a trillion who have Twitter accounts?

It is hard to make sense of all this. And since each company, FB, TW, G, is executing a very unique strategy for Social awesomeness, it makes apples to apples numbers every harder to get.

So switch to comparing rotten apples to rotten apples. :)

The attached image is from Compete. It is a competitive intelligence data provider that uses a combination of panels, asp data, isp data etc for a subset of US internet users (a couple ten million or so). It users that observed data, applies "mathematical algorithms," and presents a "here to our best of our ability is what is happening."

Since Compete is not taking data from FB or G+ or TW I call this comparing rotten apples to rotten apples.

So what does it say?

The way I look at Competitive Intel sources is to compare trends and not absolute numbers (remember the rotten parts?). In the six months it has been alive G+ has been doing very well. The trend also shows that Facebook is doing just fine. :) Over time watching these trends gives you one limited interesting view of things.

The raw numbers for 2/2012 are: Unique Visitors:
facebook.com=166,890,779
twitter.com=37,201,228
plus.google.com=18,915,810

Remember US only, observed data by a third party, for mostly desktop usage, using their own algorithms, trying to provide numbers for three companies that are executing a completely different social strategy.

So what have we learned today?

If you want to get rough trends for mostly desktop usage of each domain for unique visitors then it is not that hard.

If you were seeking something sensational that would bring into dramatic conclusion your quest to finally nail Facebook or Google or Twitter... well that is not easy.

And it is not because numbers are useful, but in the end it is the analysis of each company's unique social strategy, and it's success over time, will give you that. But most people in the world are not that patient, and that is sub-awesome.

Update: PS: If you want to learn more about competitive intelligence, how these tools collect data and how you could interpret them please see my post on that: http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/competitive-intelligence-data-sources-best-practices/

#businessanalysis #rottenapplestorottenapples #challenges
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25 comments
 
The important questions are: 1. How do you have time to blog and reply emails? I appreciate it. 2. Why don't u follow my g+ account?
 
Great info as always, +Avinash Kaushik!

One other thing to keep in mind with this admittedly rotten data is that it's not simply "desktop" traffic -- it's "desktop, browser-based" traffic. For a social network like Twitter where software clients are highly prevalent, the rotten data is more rotten because you're really only looking at twitter.com traffic on the desktop via a browser. And that's where you're absolutely correct in saying that it is the analysis of the company's strategy that matters and keeps things in context.

Have a lovely Friday! :)
 
Thanks for bringing some logic to this conversation :)

I could not agree more that too many people are trying to focus on data without clearly defining what we're trying to measure. As you pointed out, each social network has a very different strategy.

In my opinion they only overlap in two ways:

1. Sharing. I think each network is trying to help people share things with others. But the mechanisms are very different. Again resulting in an apples-to-oranges comparison.

2. Driving Outcomes. In this case I think the various flavors of social media act in similar ways. Because most outcomes still happen on a web site social can be a channel. that's why I like the new GA reports, they focus on the value, regardless of a direct conversion or assisted conversion.
 
I use Compete.com and find it so so in deriving site visitor numbers so I agree with your rotten apples comparisons and this probably isn't that far from the truth.

One thing you said that specifically caught my attention - focus on desktop use. I wonder how things change if you include mobile into the statistics and then try to account for duplicates. My guess is Twitter would go up a lot since Twitter is pretty much made for mobile. I think Facebook would increase slightly and G+ would remain about where it is.

I do find the drop (though minimal) in all 3 in the Jan/Feb timeframe to be interesting. I wonder if that has to do with a peak in December with everyone talking about their holiday activities.

I will say I find G+ to be quite active and for only being 6 months old, doing quite well. The 170+ million upgraded users stat from Google is a bit misleading but everyone twists numbers, especially numbers that are hard to track.
 
Pinterest seems to be next up-and-coming... would be curious to see comparison.
 
+Avinash Kaushik - can you tell if the Compete data takes into account third party access of twitter by other desktop tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck? I assume not...
 
Personally, I don't find the "upgraded" numbers misleading at all. Maybe the way the media has run with these figures has been misleading, but the moment the term "upgraded" was used, I knew exactly what it meant.

Google sees Google+ as two completely different things. It's a social platform/layer to plug into all of their products and for third-parties to plug into their products. It's also a standalone website.

To be able to use Google+, you have to have a Google Account and you have to fill in a minimal amount of a profile (probably just name and birthday). So, the 170 million figure clearly means that 170+ million people have given Google their names and birthdays, creating a minimal Google+ profile. Once this is accomplished, these users are one click away from, for example, sharing a YouTube video by clicking the "+1" button on it.

When the "well over 100 million active users" number was being thrown around, I would imagine that any Google+ activity (whether visiting the actual standalone Google+ website or clicking a +1 button somewhere on the Internet) counts as being active. How often you need to do this to remain part of the active crowd hasn't been defined, but I would imagine doing this just once every 30 days would qualify.

The numbers they haven't announced are actual visits to the standalone Google+ website. For some, this might be an important metric. For others, it may be inconsequential. I believe that what Google was most interested in accomplishing is a single unified way for Google Account holders to "+1" and to share content across Google's universe of content. They've accomplished this with Google+. Having a standalone Google+ website that is also fairly active was, I think, just icing on the cake for them.
 
Thanks Avinash. I guess only time will tell whether G+ can serve a real need.
 
I love the point that this is only a specific data set.

If I were looking at this data set from say Facebook's perspective I would first pat myself on the back for building a website that desktop users seem to like, then I would ask myself does that matter? If profit through advertising dollars is the goal, then a having a large screen format to work with is more more flexible than say mobile.

If I am someone looking to advertise with either of these companies, then I have learned that I need to be very careful in how I phrase my questions re: who will see my ad.

If I'm not Facebook/twitter/G+ or an advertiser/investor then I have to ask why do I care about desktop browser-based traffic. I just need to focusing on my best way to use Facebook/twitter/G+;)
 
+Ryan Cain So you are saying it is slightly more rotten then one might anticipate? :) Good point! I'm sure there are other nuances too. But in the end the nuances (and rottenness) applies equally to all three of them. That is a small mercy.

+Justin Cutroni Wonderful points Justin. It makes me wonder (surprise!) how we can measure that. I think the first one perhaps we can (I'll mull on that), the second is more complex. We won't know direct outcomes on Google (or Facebook or TW), except the stock price/long term revenue maybe, and impact on individual sites the sites won't share. Food for thought for us!

+Justin Siefert I don't know of a good enough source for that, but I'll keep looking. :)

+John Schwartz If you have access to Compete Pro this link will work and show you the comparison with Pintrest: http://goo.gl/SzB5y It does not even show up on the graph. (Remember all the caveats listed in the post.)

+Sean McGinnis I think not. Please see my comment to Ryan above.
 
Is Google+ growing fast enough? Being the last player in the market, it seems to me its adoption curve should be steeper. Am I wrong?
 
Woops. Glossed right over Ryan's original comment.
 
Sure it's not sensational, but interesting nonetheless. Only 1/2 the traffic sent by Twitter, but yet it's only 6 months old? Only desktop statistics? 170 million users upgraded? I am guessing that's anyone with a gmail account. Still though, even though it's Compete's 'guesstimate' stats, it's more than I thought.
 
One point that caught my attention is the fact that each has their own strategy for social awesomeness, and because of this, we need to look to the rotten apples. Yes it's true that they each have their own strategy, but I'm not sure about the magnitude of the effect that +Justin Siefert talks about in terms of the execution. If you look at the sites designs, it seems that they all actually have the same objective: to obtain as much user personal 'stuff' as possible through submission of user generated text and pictures and sharing of other user content. (note that each site permits this action, so I include upload of pictures within the submission action. Sharing, forwarding and retweeting also are specific user actions).

G+, Facebook, Twitter - all social sites want your pictures, your posts, your birthdays, etc (stuff). This is the predominate actions being requested of the user through the site layout (we would need to accept the premiss that a site owner designs and optimizes their site to best accomplish the main objective over time. If not, they wouldn't be successful right?).

Using this metric would overcome the +Sean McGinnis point around tracking of 3rd party apps and service as well as +Justin Siefert point about overlap. Error would arrise from the following:
- Video Chat: I accept this error because neither site has this as core competency. Only Google+ has had video chat from the get go, but the sites success does not depend on me as a user starting a hangout. It's nice, but it could survive without it right? Look at twitter.
- Consumption activity by lurkers: Again accepted. A site with too many lurkers would not have content against which they can lurk leading to the sites eventual demise. If anything, you could call this ratio a warning sign. (Twitter reported that 40% of registered users are lurkers if you believe Dick Costolo - http://huff.to/IvPeKC. Makes me wonder what that tipping point would be?) So number of users would not be as essential to my business survival as posting users to the objective.
 
Interesting analysis.. Nice to use.. easy to spread the word about your business. Why wouldn't we use it. We at http://www.hfa.org definitely use Google+
 
How many people are accessing Google + from their smartphones?
 
I agree with +Joey Muller that it's the Google rich features that will begin to pull more people over  to G+. With Android becoming the world leader in smartphones and all of the uber simple integrations, I believe people will fall just in love with it as the early adopters have.
 
I agree with +Lindsay Smith. Google is making things easier for people..plus Google has the distinct advantage of being able to combine social with search.

I think personalized search results will have a major impact on people's buying decisions as more people begin to adopt G+. The social proof of reviews from people you already know, like and trust goes a long way in controlling human behavior. FB and TW just don't have this kind of reach, despite their size...nor were they ever designed to.

Most people I talk with have no idea what Google has been up to as of late.  But in a couple years, I'll bet a lot more people will have adopted G+...in some cases without really even knowing it.  You already have to have a G+ account just to use many Google products...it's why G+ had 20 million users in 24 days- where it took FB and TW around 3 years to reach that level.

I personally look forward to what's coming from Google..I participated in a hangout the other day and kept thinking to myself, "finally!, now where's my flying car I was promised back in the 70's!' :)
 
Still Twitter's goal is public comments it was never meant to be a personal hub, Facebook is basically Google+ but not associated with a search engine which being sort of scares unique visitors. Even if Google+ is as popular as Twitter, Twitter Is still featured in ads by every company basically compared to the 7 I've seen even featuring Google+ and only usually to video chat, IT would have better luck if Google focused on Its video feature
 
+Avinash Kaushik Thanks for your post, do you have more up to date Unique Visitors stats for the three social networks? Thank you.
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