How Many Google+ Members Are Actually Active?

A study reveals that Google+ user numbers might be lower than previously thought -- but the real value in the network might not have anything to do with public user activity.

Google+ has been a contentious social network since it launched. Whether it was the integration into YouTube comments, users being automatically assigned accounts, or the persistent idea that the network was a ghost town, Google+ has never been free of criticism. A study of a subset of users from Stone Temple Consulting may be able to clear up the confusion around the impact of the network.

Founder and CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, Eric Enge, randomly selected 516,246 Google+ profiles and analyzed how often they posted, their lifetime public posts, the presence of public content on their pages, and public posts within the last 30 days. He used these metrics to gauge how active the site’s participants were since launch, and currently.

On the surface, the data looks bad for Google+. 515,405 of the profiles selected were valid for study, but 90.1 percent of them had no public content available at all. Almost 50,000 of the profiles were categorized as “active members,” and when extrapolated across the 2.2 billion accounts on the network that means there are more than 212 million active users.

However, Enge eliminated activity not native to the G+ stream, such as YouTube upload notifications, profile picture changes, and YouTube comments, and the adjusted number of active users was just short of 112 million active users. There were also almost 112 million users that had never posted publically, which includes profiles formerly marked “active” before the adjustment.

Furthermore, it seems user activity tumbled quickly over time. When considering all activity, there are more than 200 million users. But only 50 million of those users have posted more than five times, and less than eight million users have made more than 50 public posts to the network.

An analysis of activity over the last 30 days reveals that post rates are even lower. 23.4 million people posted publically during the survey period. This means that less than one percent of people have made public posts in the last 30 days.

Despite this data, Enge does not believe that Google+’s days are numbered, as this analysis doesn’t take into account many use cases for the network:

Yes, it’s small, but it’s vibrant. You must take into account comments, use of the +1 buttons, and lurking activity to have a fair comparison with other social networks. For example, if you estimate that 90 percent of a social network is in some form of lurking mode, you get some sort of idea where things are with the G+ stream overall.

Enge is of the opinion that G+ is sticking around, as are Google staff. The data involved, the personalization, and the interconnection the service provides means that G+ isn’t likely to be shut down in the near future. Google isn’t going to surrender to Facebook in the back and forth war over social logins just yet.

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