By this time next year, could Google+ surpass LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace to become the second most popular social networking service in the U.S?
It could, says one study.
With an estimated 16 million more U.S. online adults joining Google+ in the next year, the month-old social network could reach 22 percent penetration, according to the YouGov US Opinion Center (full data at bottom). That’s more than the 20 percent penetration expected to be seen by both LinkedIn and Twitter over the next 12 months.
Currently, with 25 million registered accounts, Google+ has 13 percent penetration. YouWeb has Myspace listed at 14 percent penetration, Twitter at 18 percent, LinkedIn at 19 percent and, well above the rest, Facebook at 71 percent.
While it’d be significant enough to see Google+ rising above LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s worth noting that the networks experiencing the most casualties would actually be Myspace and Facebook. With the former, it’s obvious: Myspace has been in a death spiral for some time now. For Facebook, though, it’s a little surprising.
Even more surprising: YouWeb found that 30 percent of Facebook users already on Google+ plan to diminish their Facebook usage over the course of the next year.
If this social media sea change actually occurs, how can it be explained?
First and foremost, millions of people already regularly use and deeply trust Gmail and other Google services in their daily Web routines. Convincing those users to start using a Google social network shouldn’t be very hard. (Wave and Buzz only failed because the one was too complex and the other ignored privacy. Google+ mends both of those issues with ease.)
Beyond its established user base, however, Google may have hit a home run with Google+ by creating an environment more engaging than any other network out there. YouWeb found that 45 percent of its users report reading content once a day or more, bested only by the 62 percent seen on Facebook.
As for sharing and posting, 46 percent of Google+ users report creating content at least once weekly, besting Twitter’s 42 percent.
On top of all that, Google+ may be on the way to success simply because it is following a tried and true model. It’s Facebook’s:
“Google+ is tracing a path similar to Facebook’s initial growth – building excitement in a core group of early adopters,” said Michael Nardis, Head of YouGov Investment Products. “For Facebook, it was college students. For Google+, that path is young, educated, single men who are heavy internet users.”
The YouGov data presented here is based on a study of 1,003 adults, “nationally-representative of the US online adult population,” interviewed in late July and early August.