Social networking sites are a hot topic. For us marketing students, it is inevitable to think about the consequences social networking sites have for companies and consumers. In class we discussed some issues arising from the existence of these sites, like building brand communities, and also on this blog people wrote about it. Despite the popularity of this subject, there is one relatively new social networking site that is only mentioned incidentally, both in class and in the blog. Google+. When it was launched in July 2011, there were many speculations about how the new social platform would perform. Would it stand a chance to grow big next to market leader Facebook? How would the public react on another social networking site; will the users of these switch from Facebook to Google+ or have an account on both? Or should the first question posed here be: Will people actually start using Google+? These and many more questions were the subject of numerous blogs, articles and conversations.
Half a year later, not all the question marks have disappeared yet. However, what can be answered now, is how Google+ performed in the first half year of its existence. Last week, Larry Page announced the 2011 annual results for Google, including figures regarding Google+. With 90 million users, Google+ has already exceeded expectations. Compared to Facebook, with more than 800 million users, this number may not seem really impressive, but if you take in consideration that Facebook exists since 2004 and Google+ only for 6 months… The strong brand of Google and people already being familiar with social networking sites are obviously factors that play a role in the fast growing number of users of Google+, but nevertheless, Google+ had a great start.
Currently there are more than 1 million Google+ business and brand pages, meaning that also companies are using Google+ as a new channel. One important reason for these organizations to join Google+ is search engine optimization. Business and brand pages are indexed by Google, which means consumers will find the Google+ page in their search results, even when they use another search engine than Google. Hereby the findability of companies for consumers is increased. Next, as consumers with a Google+ account have entered a Google+ business or brand page, they can directly contact the linked organization. Besides this, there are more reasons for companies to have Google+ page, but the ones mentioned have the most clear advantages over Facebook pages.
After the first official results of Google+, a lot questions still remain. These consider more phases of the product life cycle than only the introduction stage. For example, how long will the growth of Google+ users continue with such a high rate? When will the increase in users stagnate, maybe earlier than hoped/expected? When will Google+ reach its top? Besides these questions, I think it is more interesting for us to think about whether Google+ will become a well-established channel between consumers and companies. Many discussions can be held and blogs be written, but it is for sure that the answer to this question will not be known during our seminar, neither during our studies. We will just have to wait and see. In the meantime, we can of course speculate as much as we like 🙂