Should Facebook be worried about Google Plus?

by Andrew Brown on Aug 10, 2012

Originally published as a Quora answer

When Google+ was launched, there was a lot of talk and speculation as to what it meant for Facebook. Could Google really compete with THE social network.

Google has failed at social before.

Opinions fell on both sides of the equation. Some predicting Google+ as a real Facebook challenger and others writing off Google+ as yet another social letdown from the search engine.

Here are some updated numbers that clearly show yes, Facebook should be very worried.

Google’s massive marketshare and ability to advertise and integrate with its own services already being used has enabled Google+ to grow faster than any other social networking site in the past, reaching 50 million users in just under 3 months, compared to the 3+ years it took similar sites.

This chart from Mashable (posted January 2012) shows gigantic user growth, with Google+ on par to reach 400 million users by the start of 2013, around the same time Facebook is estimated to reach 1 billion users (up from 900 million at the start of 2012).

In June 2012, Google announced they had more than 250,000,000 users[7], with over 150,000,000 of them using the site at least once a month, and 75,000,000 signing on every day.

Over time, however, the “number of people using Google+” will eventually go away. The goal of Google+ is to create a social backbone that integrates with all services; a side-effect of that is the actual site known as Google+. Eventually anyone who uses Google products (estimated 1 to 1.5 billion people, not users) will be using Google+.

Another thing Google+ has got going for it is that it has the highest customer satisfaction of any ranked social site on the web. A cool 78% of users enjoy using Google+, while only 61% of users enjoy using Facebook (down from 66% in 2011).

There’s a reason people enjoy using Google+: from the start Google has announced top-name designers leading the projects, such as former-Apple Andy Hertzfeld.

VentureBeat posted this graph (December 2011) of the top ten social sites being visited per month in the US. While Facebook is still at the top, Google+ is gaining traction. Also of note is Blogger, Google’s blogging platform that recently received Google+ integration, at #2.

By February 2012, Google+ had reached the #5 spot with 65 million monthly users.

Engagement is the driving appeal of Google+. While it does fill a different use-case than Facebook, Christopher Cuong Nguyen is right in that there is a hard limit to the number of seconds in a day you can be using a site. Facebook lets you talk with friends and find out how they’re doing. Google+ is about your interests and connecting with new people with similar interests.

As of right now, even the most niche of interests will show up in Google+ search, filled with a mixture of beautifully-large images and in-depth discussion. This means anyone can find anyone to follow and instantly populate their stream with information they want to read about.

Apparently, Google gets mobile. They really get mobile. I’ve heard (and given) more praise about how beautiful, simple, and fast the phone and tablet apps are. Facebook has faced a huge struggle over the years trying to get users to use the mobile app. Vic Gundotra announced in April 2012 that more people use Google+ on mobile than from the web.

Lastly, the fact that Google is a leader in so many more markets than Facebook should have Mark Zuckerberg shaking in his boots. 900,000 android devices are activated every day and each of them comes preinstalled with a Google+ app. You’re not forced to use it, but when you’ve got a new phone and are checking out out all the features, you’re going to be amazed by the app.

Google will continue to innovate not only through software, but through hardware as well. Facebook is working on a phone with HTC, but have not been involved with any major consumer hardware innovation to date; and the software innovation they work on is limited to Facebook.com.

Facebook does not have the Google ecosystem of maps, calendar, search, books, movies, youtube, music, blogging, desktop search, cloud storage, advertising, rss readers, email, gps tracking, image editing, android, chrome, AppEngine, Compute Cloud, data takeout, or the tons of other products thriving and working together under Google.

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Post Author

I'm a published author of literature and a not-so-published author of code. Find my short stories and other things at drusepth.net. CS major at Missouri S&T, minor in cognitive neuroscience, emphasis in artificial intelligence. It's a nice mouthful. Couldn't wait...

  • Socialish

    Interesting article!

  • Peter

    Love G+. Have been using it from day 1. Engagement is much richer than in the Twitter environment.

  • Sarah Dolk

    People still use MySpace?
    In the future, I see Facebook as a place I go to goof off with friends, and Google+ to be the more grown up place where I help my business grow and connect with serious contacts. Not enough people I know have moved on over to Google+ to make it the “fun” place, and I hope that changes, but I think people are tired of changing to yet another new social media platform. I don’t think it will replace Facebook quickly, but will be an alternative for more serious users, sort of like switching over from MySpace to Facebook a few years back. I hope I am wrong. Thanks for your post.

  • http://twitter.com/conservagirl Susan

    Too many liberals on it – and I mean way-out-there topple the USA liberals.

  • http://twitter.com/JonMikelBailey Jon-Mikel Bailey

    The big difference for me between G+ and FB is the amount of time wasted. I waste more time on Facebook. While I don’t spend as much time on G+ I find the time I do spend there to be vastly more productive. We shall see how it all plays out. I think the points you make here certainly speak to the fact that G+ is not going away and is only going to become more and more integrated. Personally, I love Google. I have 3 android devices and love the ease with which all can be synced.

  • http://drewfrey.com/ Drew Frey

    Thanks for sharing Andrew.

    I’ve been following this on Quora and find a lot of these findings not only interesting but alarming for Facebook.

  • Socialbakers

    I don’t think that Facebook should be
    worried that much. Even though “Google’s massive market share and the ability
    to advertise and integrate with its own services already being used has enabled
    Google+ to grow faster than any other social networking site in the past” doesn’t
    mean that it could dethrone the king of Social media networking. If you look at
    the stats of people joining/leaving Facebook here on Socialbakers http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook-statistics/
    you can see that almost all the number are green, thus people are joining
    Facebook and the increase is very significant. It the global scale far more
    significant than Google+ is.