Officially, Google+ has more than 2.5 billion users, which would make it by far the largest social network in the world, with almost twice as many members as Facebook. However, even Google doesn't peddle this line.
The billions of accounts exist because every Gmail address automatically has a corresponding Google+ account, the vast majority of which have never even been logged into. The social network is widely derided as a wasteland, but Google hasn't released any official user numbers recently, so how many people actually actively use Google+?
On May 5, Google+ was upgraded with a new Pinterest-like feature called Collections to try and breathe life into the flagging platform, but just how much ground does it need to make up on its competitors?
A report by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting says that 90 percent of Google accounts have never made a single public post on Google+.
Enge's figures come from an analysis of 516,246 randomly selected Google+ profiles. The results more or less tally with stats produced by blogger Edward Morbius in January that suggested only nine percent of Google accounts ever used Google+. Ten percent of 2.5 billion is only 250 million, and the number of active users is far less than that. Morbius' data suggested that only between 4 to 6 million people engage, interact and post publicly on Google+.
The recent figures from Stone Temple Consulting would seem to back up Morbius' January data. Enge's data shows that only 6.6 million users have ever made 50 or more posts on Google+ and only 3.5 million of them have been active in the last 30 days. These figures discount YouTube comments, which are automatically posted on Google+. Astonishingly, only 1.49 percent or 32.9 million users have ever made more than five public posts on the network.
Actual figures are now likely slightly higher as Enge's calculations are based on a total of 2.2 billion Google accounts, and that figure has grown by 300 million since the research has carried out. Still, these figures make pretty glum readings for Google+. According to Statista.com, Facebook has 1.4 billion active monthly users, and even Twitter, which has taken a lot of criticism of late, has 300 million active users. The same stats show 300 million active Google+ users, so presumably, the other figures are also somewhat inflated.
If there are only a few million people actively posting to the public stream, you would have to wonder why it still exists. For starters, there are probably far more than a few million eyeballs on the stream each month. Most users of social media rarely post anything and just read others' posts. These "lurkers" are just as valuable to advertisers as "active" users, but it's very difficult to estimate their numbers. There's also a lot of private sharing done on Google+ that isn't accounted for here, especially when it comes to things like sharing photographs with family.
Apart from user traffic, there is, of course, the value of the universal login that is tied to Google+. People are now using Google search from an account that they are logged into, which makes it easier to track user profiles.
So, despite the fact that the Google+ stream does actually appear to be a relative wasteland, don't expect it to go away anytime soon.