How we spend our spare time increasingly includes Facebook. Their 800 million users and counting validate that but we need to remember that this was not always the case.

Three years ago I conducted research for the UK’s National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) on the predominant social networks at that time. It is worth noting that MySpace had more users than Facebook then. It’s amazing the amount of change we have seen in three years. LinkedIn has also become the predominant professional social network and Twitter has established itself as a communication utility too.

However, Google+ has emerged as a new challenger in just a few months. Launched as a beta, invitation-only site, Google+ is now open to the public and has had a growth rate to be envied. The site saw 1200%+ growth in one week after opening to the public. Closing in on 50 million users in less than six months since launching is something that should not be dismissed.

With things like Circles for organizing connections and Hangouts for video-based chats, Google+ has provided interesting features that people are already using in unique ways.

Hangouts alone have inspired people to hold cooking classes, Dell to invite customers to discuss support and service issues with staff, and to host people backstage before a performance. It is only a matter of time before more people and organizations are using Google+ in ways unavailable to them via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Will Google+ surpass Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn? I don’t know but I will most certainly be watching what happens. I firmly believe that Google+ is going to offer opportunities for business innovation. People and organizations have already begun trying things and we will continue to be surprised by what results from their efforts.