In just a few weeks Google Inc.’s latest social networking foray, Google+, has attracted more than 10 million users, said Google CEO Larry Page yesterday during an earnings call with analysts. And that’s in spite of the fact that Google+ is in beta test mode and is by invitation-only.
While that is only a hair above 1% of Facebook’s 750 million active users, it represents extremely rapid growth. Moreover, like Facebook, which says that each month consumers share more than 30 billion pieces of content, including web links, news stories and photos, Google+ users are extremely engaged. Page said yesterday that more than 1 billion items are shared on the site each day. Google could not be reached for immediate comment on what kind of content consumers are posting.
“We want to make products that everybody uses twice a day, like their toothbrush—we’d certainly think about Google+ that way,” Page said.
At the crux of the battle between Facebook and Google is the competition to engage consumers so they will spend lots of time on a site, and thereby provide many opportunities for the networks to target them with ads. 157.2 million consumers visited Facebook in May, according to web measurement firm comScore Inc. Those consumers are particularly valuable because they looked at 103 billion pages and spent an average of 375 minutes on the site, providing Facebook plenty of opportunity to show them ads. In the same month, comScore says consumers viewed 46.3 billion pages and spent 231 minutes with Google sites, such as YouTube and Gmail. That helps explain how Facebook has been able to garner nearly one in three online display ads on the web, according to a recent comScore report.
To garner market share Google aims to differentiate its social network by focusing on enabling a consumer to share with select groups of people, rather than all of his friends. Google+ allows a consumer to use what it calls Circles to organize its connections. Those Circles may be “St. Paul family,” or “Acquaintances.” That structure enables a consumer to share a link with his college friends but not his family. Meanwhile he might share an interesting anecdote with his parents. And he might not share much information with his coworkers.
“Our goal at Google+ is to make sharing on the web like sharing in real life, as well as to improve the overall Google experience,” Page said. “Circles lets you choose with precision who you’re sharing with. Not surprisingly, this has been very well received.”
The social network also features a tool called Hangouts that lets consumers invite others in their Circles to a video chat. Google+ allows multiple consumers to engage in a video chat at once, unlike Facebook’s new video feature, launched earlier this month, that only allows one-on-one interactions.
Google launched its social network several weeks after launching its +1 button, which lets a consumer influence the search results her friends will see on Google, including promoting products she likes. The button, which appears on BestBuy.com, HuffingtonPost.com and other sites is clicked on 2.3 billion times a day, Page said.
“While we still have a lot of work to do, we are really excited about our progress with Google+,” Page said.