Google+ registers many users, but few are active
UC3M/DICYT Social networks have become the Internet’s most used applications. Among these, Facebook and Twitter dominate the market, with billions of users. Given this scenario, “Google, the internet giant, realized that in order to maintain its dominant position, it would have to get involved in the social network market,” declares one of the authors of the study, Rubén Cuevas, of UC3M’s Telematic Engineering Department. His study seeks to settle the debate regarding the success of Google+. On one hand, Google has, on several occasions, declared its social network a huge success; on the other hand, some experts and media sources, such as the Wall Street Journal, have nicknamed the network a “ghost town”.
In 2011, these researchers began a line of study dedicated to social networks, focusing first on an analysis of Twitter. Thanks to the experience gained in monitoring that network, and putting into action an idea proposed by UC3M professor Roberto González, they decided to take advantage of the birth of Google+ to study its growth from the very first days of its existence. From that starting point, the project was developed in collaboration with the University of Oregon (USA) and the Institut Mines-Telecom Sud Paris (France).
The information obtained comes from three different sources. First, the researchers gather information regarding the connectivity of connected users on Google+, over 7 to 10 days, which currently reaches approximately 190 million users and 3,800 links. Second, they gather the information on the rest of Internet users, those known as “singletons”, isolated users who have no social network link with any other and who generally show no activity; finally, they take into account those users who form small islands. To estimate the percentage of users in each of these groups on the Google+ network (connected, singletons and those located on islands) the study uses a random sampling of each of them.
The research also analyzes the public activity of users starting with the launch of the social network. Specifically, the researchers have data on over 540 million public posts sent by users and on all of the responses to them that were posted by other users, including “+1s”, comments and the number of time that the posts are shared.
Attractive, mature and not very active
The first conclusion reached by the study was that “a new social network backed by an Internet giant, as in the case of Google+, has an enormous capacity to attract new users who register,” explains one of the study’s authors, Professor Ángel Cuevas. “However,” he points out, “this platform has had serious difficulties getting those users to actively participate in the social network.” One piece of data that corroborates this idea is that of the daily increase in newly registered users, which is 60 times greater than the increase in the number of active users.
The study’s second conclusion is that more than two thirds of the registered users of Google+ are "singletons". These users (which Google includes in its registered users figures) seem to be the result of the registration process that is integrated into Google, that is to say, the mechanism by which the user creates an account for another Google product (like You tube or Gmail) automatically registers them in Google+. Thus, “it is possible that some of these ‘singletons’ are not even aware that they are registered in Google+,” comment the researchers.
The third conclusion is that, from the point of view of Internet topology, Google+ seems to have reached maturity, since its properties of connectivity have varied only minimally in the most recent months of the study. In addition, in this apparent state of maturity after approximately one year in existence, the properties of connectivity and activity indicate that “the public activity that takes place on Google+ comes from a very small group of popular users, those who publish a large part of the posts and receive the great majority of the responses from other users,” states Roberto González.
The study, titled "Google+ or Google-? Dissecting the Evolution of the New OSN in its First Year", was presented at the twenty-second edition of the prestigious international World Wide Web Conference, which was held several months ago in Brazil (http://www2013.org/). This paper is part of a broader line of research that seeks to better understand how professional users (such as companies and politicians), and also everyday users, use social networks, as well as which strategies are the most successful at attracting the greatest number of fans and responses. The ultimate goal is to formulate a series of recommendations for these users that will indicate which social network is the most appropriate for them based on a user’s specific interests, as well as what is the best way to use the network in function of their objectives.