Traffic to Google’s social network is up by more than two-thirds compared to nine months ago, according to new figures from comScore, suggesting that Google+ may not be the online ghost town analysts had suspected. The report finds that unique visitors hit 110.7m globally in June, up from 66.8m in November and led by strong growth in key markets such as the US, which makes up around a quarter, or 27.7m, of its users. Although the report does not offer any explanation for the rise, June coincided with the firm’s I/O developers’ conference and the launch of new Google+ apps for Android tablets, which likely boosted interest in the social network. Although this growth is promising, Facebook now counts more than 955m users, and analysts remain divided over whether Google+ will be able to sustain this interest.
The size of Google+’s real user base remains unclear, with the firm claiming the service cannot be measured in the same way as conventional social networks such as Facebook. In April, Google’s SVP for social, Vic Gundotra, said the service had notched up 170m users, but admitted that this tally includes anyone using a Google service, such as Gmail, where they have signed in as a Google+ member. This means Google is counting users commenting or engaging in other social interactions while signed into the service, rather than just users posting content or messaging contacts on the social network itself.
Despite its assurances, Google’s reluctance to break out official user figures, and reports of poor user engagement, leave many questioning how popular the site really is. Research from RJMetrics found that in a study of 40,000 public posts on the network, each post gets just one recommendation, known as a ‘+1’, and an average of 0.54 replies per 0.17 shares, suggesting consumers just aren’t using the network. Although Google is attempting to boost engagement with the platform, commentators argue that rivalry with Facebook, as well as other fast-growing more specialised social networks such as Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, leaves little need for yet another social network.
Google+ had a strong start, becoming the fastest social network to hit 25m users after launching last summer, hitting the milestone in the space of a month. It now has more than 100m users a year after launch, 10 times the number Facebook had a year after launching in 2004 and hitting the number in a quarter of the time Facebook took to hit 100m users. Despite this impressive start, there are mixed reports about its growth, with analysts claiming much of the early interest in the service was made up of curious developers, rather than long-term users and is now starting to taper out. The fact that traffic has peaked around the firm’s annual developers’ conference suggests there is some truth in this.
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