There’s been a huge shift in the social media landscape. It’s no longer the duopoly that we’ve assumed it was for so long. The third big social media platform has truly arrived and it’s blown Twitter out of the water. Or at least that’s what it looks like.
The headline result of GlobalWebIndex’s latest report on Social Media usership is the finding that Google+ has overtaken Twitter and become the world’s second most popular social network. That’s the same Google+ that was referred to as a ‘ghost town’ just last year. In terms of active users in the latter quarter of last year Twitter had 288m compared to Google+’s 343m.
Those figures should surprise no one considering the level of integration Google has brought to it’s social platform. Google+, in one form or another, is just about everywhere these days. It’s in your search results, on blog posts and in your email. It’s hard to escape. It’s also becoming a vital SEO and content marketing tool. This news has been reported as bad news for Twitter, or evidence of a shift in the market. In truth, it’s evidence that Google have found the way to leverage their search power in the social marketplace, integration.
‘Active’ is a Loose Term
That same integration may also point to a problem with these figures. GlobalWebIndex’s studies try to provide an accurate picture by using ‘active’ users only. There may be over a billion accounts on Facebook but that doesn’t mean that a billion people use Facebook every day. ‘Active’ user figures give a much clearer reflection of the size of a social media community. But these figures might not do that anymore.
Because Google+ is everywhere. Whenever you watch a video on YouTube, review an app on Google Play or sign in to your Gmail you are likely to be signed in to Google+. You can affect your Google+ account in a variety of ways without ever visiting your profile or checking your home stream. You effectively become an ‘active’ Google+ user simply by owning a Google+ account and using the Internet.
All of which makes it very difficult to nail down actual active usership figures for Google+. According to GlobalWedIndex, around 25% of the global Internet population used Google+ in the final quarter of last year. That’s one in four. Look around you; do you honestly believe one in every four people online use Google+?
Time For A Marketing Re-Think?
The headlines relating to these results imply that Google+ is now the second most popular social network, which must have come as a shock for marketers who don’t actively use Google+. If you don’t give it enough time, it sounds like you’re missing a huge chunk of the market. So should you start piling a lot of your time and effort into Google’s social media platform?
Yes and no. Google+ is definitely an important part of social media strategy, its showing huge growth in popularity and functionality. It may become the centerpiece of social media marketing strategies, but it’s not there yet. Its biggest value at this point is its link to Google’s search results. All indicators suggest that strong Google+ activity equals higher SERP appearance, so it does have a part to play.
But the term ‘second most popular’ social media platform implies that it offers the second largest potential marketplace. That seems unlikely. Twitter is very much a household name, even for non-users of social media. It’s heavily used by celebrities and influencers with access to huge followings. Google+ on the other hand is still finding its feet in mainstream consciousness. It’s something most people have heard of but it’s far from essential.
These figures show that Google has been very smart in it’s integration and positioning of Google+ as an integral part of Internet usage. They’ve made Google+ a background part of online life. But, so far, they haven’t made it a truly influential social media platform like Facebook or Twitter. It is growing in importance and, for it’s potential SEO benefits alone, it is a worthwhile enterprise. Just don’t move it above Twitter just yet.
The social media landscape is always changing so you need to keep up. Download more tips on monitoring social media.