July 31, 2011, 12:00 PM

With Google+, Google tries to run 'circles' around its social network nemesis Facebook

Google’s latest social networking venture, Google+, is off to a lively start with some nifty moves. For one thing, it lets users organize how they share information through “Circles” of contacts—a feature not available on Facebook.

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After its earlier attempts at building a social network petered out like a wallflower at a dance party, Google Inc.'s latest social move—Google+—is off to a lively start with some nifty moves.

Google+ attracted more than 10 million users within the first few weeks of its late June launch, CEO Larry Page said in a mid-July conference call with stock analysts. And that's with Google+ in beta test still 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 that more than 1 billion items are shared by users on the site each day.

"We want to make products that everybody uses twice a day, like their toothbrush—we'd certainly think about Google+ that way," Page said.

Google and Facebook are competing for the attention of consumers and the chance to sell ads that target them. 157.2 million consumers visited Facebook in May, according to web measurement firm comScore Inc. They looked at 103 billion pages and spent an average of 375 minutes on the site, comScore says.

Google aims to grab market share from Facebook by letting Google+ users share their information with select groups of people, rather than all their networked friends as on Facebook. Google+ allows a consumer to use "Circles" of contacts, such as "St. Paul family" or "Acquaintances," to organize how she shares information. A consumer might share certain content with her college friends but not her family or co-workers, for example.

"Circles lets you choose with precision who you're sharing with," Page said. "Not surprisingly, this has been very well received."

With a tool called Hangouts, Google+ allows multiple consumers to engage in a video chat at once, unlike Facebook's new video feature 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.

zak@verticalwebmedia.com

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