Google + has certainly been making strides, taking its social network mainstream. How? Well, for starters it has incorporated games – like the procrastinator’s favorite, Angry Birds – presumably to compete with popular Facebook games like Farmville, Mafiawars and Bejeweled (to name just a few).
Despite this fact, however, a recent study (though not referred to as a study by those who conducted it) has revealed that the younger college-aged crowd has begun to move away from Google +, possibly returning to their old social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
This young lady belongs to the young “colleges and cafes” crowd, as you are about see. She is using Facebook instead of Google +.
“Colleges and Cafes” Demographic Begins to Lose Interest in Google +
These games seem like the perfect addition for the younger, say 18-19 crowd, on Google +. Which is why I am utterly surprised by a purported drop-off in the college-aged crowd’s use of Google +. While tech bloggers will likely continue to use Google + to keep the tech world abreast of the updates to Google’s latest innovations, the social network’s popularity among the average college-aged person may be waning. Despite this new addition of games, a recent “Mosaic lifestyle segmentation system” done by Experian Hitwise concluded that Google +’s initial popularity among the “colleges and cafes” group (“young singles and recent college graduates living in college communities”) has been dropping off in the last month. Here is the chart from Experian Hitwise’s blog that represents this fact:
Find more about this Experian Hitwise “Mosaic” lifestyle segmentation here, in a post by Bill Tancer on the company’s blog. While the “colleges and cafes” (red line) group moves away from Google +, the “Status Seeking Singles” (green line) – who were early adopters of the social network –and “Kids and Cabernet” have remained on the social network. The dark blue line represents this group (described as well- off suburban married couples whose lives revolve around their children), that, along with its single counterparts, supposedly makes up the majority of Google +’s user-base right now. According to the blog post: “Currently, Kids and Cabernet index at 268 in their visits to Google+, and make-up 2.9% of visits to the site. Interestingly, when we look at this segment’s stats for visits to Facebook, they index at a mere 68 and make up less than 0.7% of visits to the leading social network.” Will Google + become the “Facebook” for the less hip and cool, for the more mature and family-centric? Only time will tell.
Experian Hitwise expands on the findings: “Its not uncommon for innovators to trial new services online and in some cases abandon those services when they lose interest. As of the writing of this post, for the week ending August 6, 2011, Colleges and Cafés have dropped to an index of 73 and now make-up only 0.3% of visits to Google+.” So, it seems as if the college-aged crowd adopted the social network early, had their fill of its features, and are leaving. We’ll see if things stay this way – its possible that the addictive Angry Birds may recall some of those “colleges and cafes” crowd to Google’s social network. However, for now, it seems like Google + is becoming a tool for an older demographic.
Will Anything Possibly Change These Demographics?
Well, we have already covered the fact that the games thing has a huge chance of drawing the college crowd back in. Also, Google’s social search now includes a new element straight from Google +. If you are signed into your Google account when you are performing searches, you may begin to notice that on search results, annotations that say a friend “has shared this on Google +” appear. This will happen if your friends/those you have in circles have publicly shared things.
The following is the interaction that Sagar Kamdar of Google had with Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan on Google + regarding this new element of social search:
Danny Sullivan: “Hey +Sagdar Kamdar if you’re around, realize one of the nice things about Google + is that you can ping Googlers about things like this. Is it new, or has it been out there a bit but just being formally announced?”
Sagdar Kamdar: “It started rollout today. What you saw earlier was a feature that has been around for awhile. If you add any URLs in the Links section of your Google Profile we may show an annotation to any of people that have added you to their Circles or yourself if you search for content and we believe the annotation is relevant. Starting today and rolling out over the coming days the links you publicly share on G+ will be visible to yourself and people that have added you to their Circles on G+.”
Danny Sullivan adds in his post about this newly publicized element of Google’s social search:
“Logged out, I don’t see this at all. So, not only does being “friends” with Ford mean that I might see a little note (“annotation,” as Google calls them), but it also means that the links themselves get ranking boost.” Read more of Sullivan’s post here.
As Sullivan does, I also follow Ford on Google +. Here’s how that fact impacts my search results:
When signed into Google +, here’s what I see when I type in “car.”
When signed out, here’s what I see when I type in “car.”
Ford’s shared information in the form of links become more relevant in my search engine results because my connection with the car company on Google + tells the search engine that I find what Ford has to say meaningful and useful. Now, Google is bringing that meaningful information to me more quickly by prioritizing it in the search results. How do you like that, “colleges and cafes” crowd? Feeling like a return to Google + may benefit you in the future? Will this change, plus the new games, be just what Google needs to bring back the young and hip crowd? We’ll only find out as the social network and its features continue to evolve.
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