Think BR: Google+ v Facebook - the real battle begins
New data indicates that Google can capitalise on Facebook fatigue and become a major player in social, writes Tom Smith, founder of GlobalWebIndex.
Tom Smith, founder, GlobalWebIndex
The industry vibe in recent years has been that Facebook's usage has been dramatically increasing while Google, although powerful as a search product, lacked a social product.
It was expected that this narrative would culminate with Facebook’s IPO, when the company would finally prove that $100bn valuations were more than just talk.
But it seems that Google has more of a foothold on social media than expected.
The latest data from GWI.6 suggests that although widely known for its core search product - reaching more than 85% of global internet users every month (up from 76.1% in GWI.1) - it is Google+ that is the exciting new contender in social media.
A massive 22% of social network users now have Google+ profiles - peaking in India at 49%.
Google+ is already the world’s second biggest social network, although it remains well behind Facebook.
While these accounts may not be actively used yet, their integration with other Google services and in particular search, represents a major change to the social media landscape.
Contrast this strong performance from Google+ with the situation at Facebook.
While the number of visits to Facebook continues to grow across all platforms, the world’s largest social network has reached saturation among active internet users in more and more markets.
User growth is now restricted to expanding internet markets such as India, Indonesia and Brazil.
More importantly, across three waves of research in 2011 Facebook users on a global basis have reduced the frequency of key Facebook activities including status updates, searching for new contacts or sending a message to friends.
GWI.6 data shows Facebook fatigue spreading in the US from the early adopters who were identified as disengaging in GWI.5.
Declines in social networking activity such as messaging friends fell 12% over the six waves of research, searching for new contacts fell 17% and joining a group 19% among all Facebook users in the US.
In fact, with clear fatigue in Facebook usage and stalling Twitter growth, there are huge opportunities in social and Google’s decision to integrate Google+ with search - while controversial - has created a central social layer across the internet.
Add to this deep Google+ integration into Android phones and expanding growth of Google Chrome, and Google starts to look like a major player in social.
The big question is whether Google can capture significant user engagement, not just sign-ups.
2012 is shaping up to be a fascinating year in social.
GlobalWebIndex 6 (GWI.6) analyses new and continuing trends in the way consumers utilise internet platforms. It is based on interviews with more than 122,000 individuals in 27 key internet markets over six separate waves of research.
Tom Smith, founder, GlobalWebIndex
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