Seriously, who is using Google Plus? And Why?

by Corey Creed on Aug 31, 2012
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Among social media professionals, few take Google Plus seriously.

I’ve heard it on webinars, reading blog posts, and from colleagues.

Nobody believes people are using Google Plus.

After all, Fast Company magazine has called it a Ghost Town! If you take a look at that report by Fast Company, the numbers are pretty convincing, primarily if you compare Google Plus usage to Facebook.

So who DOES use Google Plus?

A company named CircleCount specializes in analyzing Google Plus data. Check out their home page. It offers some interesting data on who is using Google Plus the most.

Turns out the US, India and Brazil are leading the pack. Google Plus users are also more likely to be students, developers, engineers, designers, and photographers.

Recently, CircleCount released the map below. It shows publicly stated locations for the top 4 million profiles on Google Plus. Thanks to Mark Traphagan for finding this and clarifying how it was made.

Nice map. Now, I could give you even more demographic info from across the web, but that likely would not help your decision on whether to use Google+ or not. We should really be after something more specific and much more important.

Can Google Plus affect my specific brand, business, or website?

The answer can be found in your analytics. (It’s funny how often that is the answer to online marketing questions right?)

Isolate your organic search referral traffic from Google. Then, note what percentage of that traffic shows a referral of (not provided). Those are the people that are finding your site while logged into Google.

As an Internet marketer, I have access to a lot of Google Analytics. So, I just looked at this data for a bunch of different sites. They were from different industries and included e-commerce sites and blogs.

Overall, the range of visitors that are logged in to Google when finding these sites is typically between 15% and 25%. This is up from last year. Of course that number varries from site to site.

On Social Fresh for instance, over 50% of our visitors have been logged in to Google the last four months in a row! You are a savvy bunch of digital natives it seems.

This percentage is rising as a whole. And it will continue to rise.

Does this mean that about a fourth of all your visitors are using Google Plus? Not hardly.

They may be logged in to Google because of using Gmail, YouTube, or some other product. However, all of them have their search results “personalized”.

In other words, if they (or their circled friends) have been sharing or +1ing your site, you would stand a much higher chance of outranking your competitors.

The amount of activity on Google Plus may not excite you. But the opportunities that it offers in search is a reality.


Post Author

Corey Creed was the Director of Training for Social Fresh. He worked closely with the Social Fresh Academy and other online and offline training initiatives for Social Fresh. He has also served as the President of HIPPO Internet...

  • I’d love to hear your comments on this. Does anyone else agree that Google Plus may not have the big conversations, but does hold a lot of marketing opportunity due to the ability to affect search?

    Should marketers be spending more time there to influence search rankings and therefore gain more qualified traffic? Or should marketers just focus on gaining followers and word of mouth on Facebook and Twitter – where the people are?

  • Great post Corey! You’ve nailed it, as I expect you would. There is no other social network that gets you access to an audience that way.

  • Jamie Thompson

    Great article Corey. I’m new to marketing and just coming up to speed. I recommend leveraging Google+ to all my customers for two reasons, the value add to search, and the growing usage of Google+. Search is still the top way to “discover” businesses even though the conversations may happen on Facebook and Twitter. Although Facebook and Twitter have the population today, I want my customers to have an exisitng presence as the Google+ population grows. It’s also important point for brick and mortar to take the steps to setup Google Maps and Google+ for more visibility.

  • Google+ is the best, most polished social network on the web. They are innovating rapidly and rolling out new features and improvements weekly. All networks take time to mature. Look at what’s happened to the photography community though as an indication of what is possible. Also look to Google’s commitment to using their enormous power in search and other areas (as you mention) to pull more and more people in over time.

    It’s only a matter of time at this point. It pays to be early. Anyone who cares about social media should be working diligently on a Google+ strategy now.

  • Justin Williams

    Like the photography community on G+, the craft beer community is pretty strong, so we’ve made it a part of our social efforts at Dogfish Head. The search referral is icing on the cake for now, but could be much more valuable as/if the community continues to grow. Thanks, Corey!

  • Kathy Horn

    We do recommend all our clients have Google+ profiles, but actual daily efforts are still focused on Facebook and Twitter. Many of our clients are law firms or other small service businesses. When we work to try to find their friends and interests to include in circles in G+, we can’t find anyone they want to connect with out there! I believe this will change in the future, but for now our posting and communication efforts on G+ are limited.

  • Google+ is a must, it’s not as flashy right now, but those that work with it, build it into their marketing are going to see real returns in the future. While Facebook is a shiny toy with the number of users it has, its clearly already peaked and has no Long Term Marketing value and certainly not the inbound power of Google.
    Basil Puglisi

  • “Among social media professionals, few take Google Plus seriously.”
    Wha?! If you are in social media and are not taking Google+ seriously, then you are not a professional, but a follower. Much like MySpace enthusiasts brushed off Facebook in the early days, or more like the people who used to say “only designers and musicians use Apple products” – ignoring G+ shows a lack of foresight. Not paying attention to one of the biggest companies in the world integrating their social product into nearly every other product they have would be a huge mistake. If nothing else, the merging of Google Places into Google+ Local should be reason enough for anyone needing to reach local customers to take it very seriously.
    And the whole authorship thing and Google’s drive to make search itself a social activity driven by real people is hard to ignore too.

    If you are concerned only with follower counts and immediately blasting your message to large numbers of people, you will be disappointed with Google+. If the greater purpose is improved visibility online in the long term, then G+ is where it’s at. It may not be “the next Facebook” but why would anyone want another one of those? The unavoidability of Google properties could make Plus evolve into something much broader reaching than Facebook. Get in on the ground floor.

  • 100% agree, @thomashawk:disqus

  • I agree with you. However, many social media professionals in large companies don’t. Many of them are using social media primarily for branding. They are looking for the large numbers and attention. Truth be told, there are a whole lot more people on Facebook than Google Plus. That is the primary reason they work those platforms.

    I see their point, but also agree with you.

  • I think that part of the issue is foresight and resources. We have to have the ability to look at something and see what others may not, or find value that others may have missed. This is going to mean different things to different people but at the end of the day, it may be your ability to see something unique and then leverage that which places you far out ahead of the pack.

    Take a look at how we’ve been using Hangouts over here at Fox11 in Los Angeles- There is definitely community there and more coming but there are also some unique tools which have great value outside of G+’s walls (especially if you’re in the media biz).

    Oh, and then there’s that whole search thing you mentioned. Lol

  • It isn’t really a coke or pepsi choice though. Part of an SM strategy should be “go where your target demographic is”. But I would argue that in the here today, gone yesterday world of SM, putting all of your eggs in one basket while ignoring the newborn elephant in the room is just foolish. Have I thrown out enough clichés yet?
    If someone is a social media “pro”, they, or someone in in their organization should be all over it and digging deeply into what it has to offer – not brushing it off.

    Tshaka brings up a very good point about this very thing – the hangouts and other unique features are opening a lot of eyes and doors. Some really innovative stuff happening on G+ that deserves a close look by anyone planning on being a SM Pro for the long term.

    Branding? Getting your personal brand (profile pic) and logos for larger companies next to search results, along with a snazzy official G+ business page showing near the top of a ton of searches sounds like some pretty high profile, low effort branding to me.

    G+ seems to be much more about engagement and interaction than Twitter or FB. You can always recognize the lower end SM marketers when they first sign up for Google+. They are the ones who post about a dozen or so self-serving links within an hour or two, then post something about not knowing what to do with this or “is anybody here?”
    Twit-spam and “nice post” drive-by commenting don’t go over well on G+.

    I am not trying to convince anyone they should jump on another bandwagon (I can’t stop the clichés!), but to not bother with G+ at all just strikes me as shortsighted.

    Google continues the stealthy integration across the whole Google landscape – review a business on Google Places and you are now a Plus user.
    And when G+ rolls out something big like comment integration, watch the user count spike. I love Disqus, but in my nerdy inbound marketing world, G+ is where we hang out.

  • It’s all about your audience. If your content fits into the context of G+, then it is worth being an early adopter. If your audience isn’t there, enjoy your performance to an empty theater. Calling someone a “pro” or a “follower” based upon usage (or lack thereof) of G+ is super reductionist.

  • Corey, clearly you are not using Google+ (well your author bio doesn’t show you to be at least).

    All teasing aside, if people are only thinking of Google+ as a social network then they are looking at it through frosted glasses.

    Google+ is really a platform that glues together all of the services that Google provides, search, video (YouTube), email (Gmail), collaboration (Hangouts and Hangouts on Air), cloud based storage (Drive) maps, shopping, daily deals, translation and a bunch more beside.

    The fact there is intelligent conversation on topics that I am interested in is a bonus.

    SMS was supposed to be the killer product for businesses, but it was kids that really made it what it is.

    The sooner people stop trying to compare Google+ to Facebook the better.

  • Carisa Carlton

    Hi Corey, I am just curious why you didn’t Google Rel=Author your article? The rel=author feature of Google+ is fantastic for Google search results! I am finding very few writers are taking advantage of their Google profile, but like you pointed out, writers are not the primary demographic of Google+ users, which is all the better for us.

    In case your readers don’t know how to Google rel=author their work, you can find a how-to article I wrote here:

  • Carisa Carlton

    So many of us are so over Facebook. From a marketing perspective, it’s dead.

  • Carisa Carlton

    My experience is that Google+ has lots of conversation when the content is relevant. Google plus-ers don’t tend to respond to “I just took a shower, now I am going to eat a donut” kind of posts.

    The marketing value of Google+ is tremendous. I have far better results with it than I ever had with Facebook, but that could have something to do with my target audience.

  • Thank you for this, Corey. A non-tribal, honest look at the growing importance of this channel.

  • We see tremendous opportunity and have already seen some great benefits with our bakery (authorship, integrated search results, integration with google ad words, merging of google places page with google plus, etc).

    As other commenters have already said, we expect continued integration of Google search with G+, so although the big conversations and traffic isn’t yet on G+, it’s a really good bet to make that this will change in the future.

    Plus I really love their interface :)

  • Thanks for the reminder, @google-9d43c4b8f6d3a0cfed3e1cae38d57c85:disqus

    So true! I need to do that on the few blogs I contribute to. It’s just a matter of finding a few minutes to make it happen. :)

  • Thank you, @jeffroach:disqus

  • Agreed!

  • Haha. Oh yea, search. :) @digitalshepherds:disqus

  • Awesome comments, @KerCommunications:disqus. I agree with you and appreciate your thoughtful opinions. In fact, I’m glad this post has prompted so much discussion and comments. It’s a credit to the Social Fresh audience and to the obvious interest in Google+ by so many intelligent marketers.

  • I understand what you are saying @a65611288555fd39c8961fea4d37184f:disqus , but are you also doing the SEO work for the law firms and other small businesses? Those are prime candidates for having HUGE results from a good search listing.

    For example, have you seen how much it costs in AdWords to advertise on the word “Attorney” along with the name of most any city? Clearly those search results are money.

  • Agreed. I definitely prefer the Google Plus interface, in general. However, I must say that Facebook’s Group feature has it over Google Groups, at least for now. @twitter-13021852:disqus

  • It’s really too soon to tell, don’t you think? If Google can nail the social part of their business, we might see the first search+social model built for success..

  • Kevin Larson

    Absolutely agreed! I love how I can share pictures on Google+ (beats any of the other sites hands down). Video chat once a week with people that I don’t get to see enough anymore, so we grab a beer or two and just dial into each other each Friday, nice indeed. I don’t care that all my friends are not on G+ yet. I care that some are and that I get exposed to so much more of the world than I normally would when surf the web. I’m sure that I am one of those 4 million frequent users on that map. I am proud to be an early adopter ^ _ ^

  • Way to go, @google-ef7c63e9555cb3ad414e597a081eb3dd:disqus. Hope to connect with you on G+ sometime soon. :)

  • Thanks for your comments, @google-28eb3981c367e88e80befb7ea242e9b8:disqus. I hope to connect with you on Google Plus. Sounds like we have some similar opinions.

  • My Google+ grew from 90 to 1,100 since June. My facebook growth is flat, as is my twitter (by # followers in all cases). Not only is G+ not a ghost town, it is thriving. It is what you make of it.

  • Jiminy

    And how much did Facebook pay you to write this article?

  • Evan Plaice

    The answer is simple. Are you tired of being bombarded by context-irrelevant advertisements, passive aggressive comments, and loads of useless crap from people you want to stay in touch with but who aren’t particularly relevant to your day-to-day life? Are you afraid to share content because you don’t want to share with the wrong people (ex work, family)?

    Google+ is a social network that makes it trivial to organize your social connections into context-specific groupings. That way you can filter your feed to only hear from a specific sub-group of people, or push updates to a specific group.

    Essentially, it makes managing mass communications trivial across your public/professional/personal life as well as any subset of those. It hasn’t had much impact on the luddites who still lurk on FaceBook but G+ is dominated by technically-inclined early adopters. It’s not as populated as FB but the quality of conversation and general level of intelligence across the community is much higher.

    It isn’t a very good platform for the core creeper/stalker culture of FB but depending on how you use social networks that will be either a good or bad thing.

  • Thanks for this great insights Corey. Google+ is probably one of the most effective, so promoting your website on such platforms will certainly bring about in business leads.

  • Lokah Smiþa

    They’re also not creepy stalkers like Facebook.

  • Rod

    I use FB and I think it’s also pretty trivial to organize your social connections into specific context-specific groupings with “Groups”. I have family groups, different friend’s circle’s groups and work groups. The difference, I guess is that in G+ you can group people into circles without them knowing about it (For example, putting some boring guys into the “Boring guys” circle without offending them, just for personal organization purposes)… It’s an advantage but, for me, it doesn’t overpass the advantage that FB has now: The fact that everybody uses it, so It’s a standard.

    Agree however on the fact that the general “News Wall” is pretty bad in FB, but at least now you can select who shows up in there without un-friending them. I guess my main point is, FB is not so bad if you really exploit its parameters (:

  • Joe

    Google + should be optional.