Google Plus: Two Months Old and Misunderstood

At two months, Google+ has generated several noteworthy effects. Its spectacular record of attracting users is unprecedented. Its wealth of features compares well with the top social networking sites in existence today. Finally, its implication as a platform has generated scores of declarations citing everything from the dire to the fantastic. So loud have been these pronouncements that lost in the noise are the facts that seem to have been completely ignored by most reviewers.

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The latest leap associated with Google Plus has been the drop in usage among some users. How such a predictable statistic made headlines is puzzling, but more perplexing is how few posts have appeared noting the early signs of a pattern in Plus’ long-term user profile. In a survey reported in August by Experian Hitwise , GPlus’s most enthusiastic initial account holders, those in colleges and cafes, as Hitwise categorizes, dropped off significantly after less than a month. Now this profile ranks at the very bottom of the four main groupings listed in the survey.

A second cluster, described as Status Seeking Singles, began as a close mirror to the college students who were quick to explore Google+ and equally quick to abandon the site, though the Singles did not fall off at anywhere near the rate as their presumably younger counterparts. They now share near equal status in usage as a third dynamic among users, a powerful demographic Google likely targeted with great forethought.

Kids and Cabernet are emerging as the likely core from which Google+’s future will draw. Using Experian’s own description, this cohort is comprised of “prosperous, middle-aged married couples living child-focused lives in affluent suburbs.” As a clarification to the term middle-aged, this group falls into a definable age range of 25-44. Here’s why this all matters.

Though the jump to conclude that Google’s newest, and by far, most sophisticated and supported social networking platform’s prime purpose was to compete, (some even speculated usurp), directly with Facebook, the available data never supported that wild assumption. To be clear, Google+ certainly has comparable features with Facebook, but beyond the superficial, Google Plus bears a demographic likeness much more like Linkedin than FB.

Having shot past the 25 million user mark at a ripe age, GPlus is well on its way, even with the slower growth noted by the recent survey, to surpassing within a year Linkedin’s 100 million users. Already prolific guessers are speculating about Linkedin, this time not Facebook, being some intended target of Google. The similarities mentioned between the business networking site and Google+ are the age range, (think Kids and Cabernet), and industries most common to users of both sites, namely high tech, high skill companies. The picture that I would argue should be forming is not one of Google+ vanquishing another site, but one in which the universe’s most pervasive search engine taps into an enviable market better than anyone else.

At two months, Google+’s end game can’t, with any degree of certainty, be revealed. Still, the growing evidence, as it exists at this juncture, seems to point in one direction that just happens to be several degrees off course from most speculation to date.