Analysts argue about whether or not Google+ can overtake Facebook, but they’re missing the point

June 27, 2013
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What good is social media?

The real aim is to engage people with similar interests, right? Maybe get a different point of view, or expand your horizons a touch. Some people aren’t worth the time it takes to say “hi”, and others fascinate us thoroughly.

The real question that seems to dominate is where we accomplish all of this personal growth and exploration. The “Facebook sucks” or “Google+ is a ghost town” comments rage on, and are defended by believers of either service. Whatever our reasons for being where we are in social media, we’re there for a purpose. Be it Reddit, Flickr, Facebook, Google+, MySpace (yeah, it still exists!), or wherever we go, the purpose is always the same.

But, why do we choose where we are? Maybe it’s sheer numbers, or maybe another factor. Google+ users may choose to be there because it’s not Facebook, and has a very different crowd. Facebook users may stay for the sheer number of members, as is evident by the “my family is all there” reasoning you get when people are asked why they prefer Facebook over other social media.

Google is quick to counter with overall user numbers, claiming that about 400 million users engage across all of their social brands.

Marcus Tober, founder of Searchmetrics, thinks Facebook’s reign of supremacy is coming to a close. According to him, Google+’s rapid growth will cause it to usurp Facebook in early 2016. That’s interesting commentary, considering Facebook has one billion users, and Google+ checks in with about one-fifth of that. While he points to the quick uptick in Google+ membership as the reason for his premonition, others consider that metric hollow.

“That is idiotic”, says Michael Pachter of Wedbush. His reasoning for that was engagement, noting that while Facebook’s growth has slowed, users are still locked-in. According to Pachter, “Google+ users average 11 minutes per month of use, compared to Facebook’s 400. Google almost forces you to sign up when you have Gmail, but nobody really uses Google+.”

While Google+ may not be the Facebook killer we all assumed it could be, it has a place.

Google is quick to counter with overall user numbers, claiming that about 400 million users engage across all of their social brands. Be it YouTube, Google+, Gmail, or other mediums like the Chrome Web Store or Play Store, users are commenting and interacting.

The knock is legitimate, too: sign up for a Gmail account, and you’re tied into all of Google’s services. It’s sneaky, but also a sublime way to make it easy for users to engage. We can all remember a Gmail password, so why not use it for all Google services?

While Google+ may not be the Facebook killer we all assumed it could be, it has a place. More importantly, it has a place in many different locations. Google+ was always meant to be the social spine running through all Google services, and is shaping itself in that mold. As Google works to integrate Google+ comments through websites and blogs, the reaching effects of that one brand are starting to be realized. Comment in one place, and you’ve reached a wider audience. Google, and by virtue Google+, has begun to transcend social media as it stands. With such a reaching effect, Google is keen to not tie you into one site as a means of interacting or engaging.

Most users probably don’t consider YouTube a social entity, or sending an email as engaging.

Which brings into question the metric of time spent interacting and engaging. If we compare all of Google’s social services to Facebook, how do the numbers look at that point? Are they even, or maybe slightly tilted in Google’s direction? Most users probably don’t consider YouTube a social entity, or sending an email as engaging. They’re just part of our life, and we probably don’t consider them social, but they are.

So is Google+ going to overthrow Facebook? Probably not, but it doesn’t matter. Google is a company comprised of a litany of services, not a social media website. Whether you comment on a funny YouTube video, or leave a review for a favorite restaurant, you’re using Google in a social way.

I just got an email from YouTube. It landed under the “Social” tab in my Gmail. Point made, Google.

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