Chasing Facebook: Google+ is Pacing Itself to Top Facebook in Social Media Growth

googleplus logoYou may have noticed that it’s difficult to get a good read on Google+. You either love it or hate it. There’s no middle ground. Is it fair to call Google+ a ghost town when there are 343 million users, making the network the second largest behind Facebook?

Launched to the public in September, 2011, Google+ has been touted as a fertile ground for in-depth conversations. It’s been lauded for its video chat service, Hangouts and photo services.

Patrick King, CEO of Imagine, a Virginia-based website design firm, writes that tech leaders and social media novices have criticized Google+ from its launch. But King is impressed with the network’s broadcast visibility and audience engagement:

“By now, a lot of people have taken a ride on Google’s Hangout tool, which is by far the best videoconferencing tool of any social site. And now that they’ve released Live Hangouts, you practically have your own live talk show, recorded, and open for anyone to watch. With audience engagement, multi-person conversations are much easier, communities are more accessible, integrated and easier to promote than LinkedIn groups, and Google+ allows the second largest image size of any of the social sites, the first being Pinterest.”

An infographic on Social Media Today highlights several interesting stats. One important fact about Google+ is that there is a significantly larger amount of people registered for the site (1.15 billion) compared with the number of actual users (359 million). These figures are based on the last quarter of 2013. During the same period in 2012, Google+ had 435 million registered users and a mere 223 million active users. (U.S. numbers only).

David and Goliath

So what’s the deal with Facebook? Can Google+ catch and surpass this social behemoth?

Marcus Tober, the founder of Searchmetrics, a global provider of digital marketing software and services, has researched the possibility. Based on Tober’s calculations, Google+ can—and will—top Facebook by 2016.

“The Google network is growing at the stage of small to small which therefore is fast. Facebook is growing from its extremely large base to something larger, and is therefore slower, explains Tober. “The remarkable thing is that Facebook is still growing. And that’s why the blue giant appears to be unquestionably ahead of the market.”

Searchmetrics chart google_facebook_prediction_usCritics say there are a few reasons why Google+ hasn’t caught on like other channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. First, Google+ is not a social networking destination as it is everywhere. This confuses people. Second, potential users are concerned about privacy issues and Gmail accounts, and finally, Circles requires too much effort and high maintenance.

Will these reasons hamper the exponential growth that Tober predicts?

 

Brands Shift into Online Video at Record Speed

In our media planning and buying practice, the biggest shift we have seen by advertisers in the past year is to online video. Our brand clients have embraced online video and we have seen tremendous success with driving traffic and growing engagement through digital video media buys. Big and small TV advertisers have been shifting a portion of media budgets to online video.

Brands who cannot afford TV are now producing video and buying across the web in a very targeted manner. The results we see are unlike anything we’ve seen previously online in terms of engagement and click rates.

Digital research firm eMarketer says video is the fastest growing form of digital advertising, with spending increasing 46% last year and outpacing search ads and display ads.  eMarketer estimates digital video will be a $4.14 Billion industry this year, doubling the 2011 numbers.

March 2013 comScore online video numbers are impressive, as well:

Consumers watched 39 billion online videos in March 2013, according to a new report by comScore.

  • Ads accounted for over 25 percent of all videos viewed.
  • 84.5% of the U.S. population viewed Video in March.
  • 52% of the U.S. population saw a video ad in March.
  • The average number of video ads per consumer was 82x

Nothing seems to be able to stop the rise of TV as the dominant form of media by advertisers (it is estimated to be a $66.35 Billion industry this year) but online video is growing and gaining a lot of interest and ad dollars from national advertisers. As media buyers prepare to enter the annual television upfront marketplace, digital video has found a respected place among advertisers.