Google Plus comes of age – why you should be using it


At the end of October, Google held a press event where they unveiled eighteen new features for Google+, the search giant’s social networking platform, and announced that the service has reached 540 million active monthly users. That’s just the beginning.

Before we talk about what was added, let’s talk about how well Google+ is doing as a network.

=== Google+ is more active than Twitter and maybe even Facebook

As Facebook nears the one billion user mark and Twitter rivals G+ for total active user counts, Google has one big advantage over the others: two-thirds of its “active users” are actually using the site/app, not just “interacting” with it.

There’s a huge difference between “active user” counts and users who actually use a website or app. In social media, you can equate the “active user” count with the number of unique hits in your website’s raw logs. It’s a measure of the activity on your website, in terms of people coming to visit, but otherwise doesn’t tell you much. In the end, it’s a number you use to get advertisers to pay you money, but is otherwise a useless metric for your overall analysis of how healthy your website really is.

“In-stream” users on a social network are the real pot of gold. Like your website’s “repeat visitor” metric, this is a closer-to-reality metric of how well things are going for the site. In Google’s case, they have 300 million active in-stream users. Unlike the “monthly active users” metric that Facebook and Twitter offer, Google’s in-stream visitors are people who are actively engaging the website, app, etc. – people who are entering the Google+ “stream” where they will see things like posts from their Circles, Hangout requests, and, importantly, advertising. The “active users” numbers that FB and Twitter give include just about any interaction with the site, which may or may not be “in the stream.”

The 540 million number that Google released as its active user count is closer to that FB/Twitter metric. It includes anyone who comments through a G+-enabled comment feed on a blog, hits the “+1″ button on a site, or uses a third-party tool to post to Google+ without actually visiting G+ directly.

The numbers are staggering and prove that you should be using Google+ for your business and personal branding.

=== Why this matters

With about two-thirds of the users on Google+ actively engaging the site, that’s a big green flag for people to begin seeing it as a more personal, engaging social network. Not only is that 300 million potential sets of eyeballs for your business or brand, it’s a number that shows that there is a lot of possibility for engagement beyond just the “Like” and “+1″ crowd.

Users of G+ know that it engages in a way that is different than other social networks. The use of Circles, for example, allows separation of personal and professional posts. The ability to jump into or create Hangouts and shared experiences is huge, and the integration with the now-ubiquitous Google tools like Gmail, YouTube and Docs is an excellent resource.

People upload 1.5 billion photos per week to G+ and the number of videos uploaded to the site has increased twenty fold in the past year.

As for the new tools integrated.. they run the gamut from making video sharing and integration with YouTube easier (including making videos themselves) to boosting website integration with G+. You’ll definitely want to check out the new Communications Manager for G+ Pages.