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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

It Looks Like College Students are the Majority of Google+ Users

27 Jan 2012

written by Kyle James

It Looks Like College Students are the Majority of Google+ Users

It wasn’t that long ago that Mike Petroff wrote this blog post about Google+ Pages Launch.  Some new data about Google+ demographics pointed out some interesting trends that I couldn’t help but share.  With a sample size of 45 million crawled public profiles I feel pretty good that the sample data is accurate.  Google+ is estimated at 90 million total profiles.  I definitely recommend looking at the report but here are a couple of things that stood out to me.

Read the Google+ Demographics Global Report

Male vs Female Ratio

Google+ is 70% male.  This is especially weird when you consider that Twitter, Facebook and even MySpace have a larger female than male population.  The world as a whole has a larger male population, but the US has an estimated 4 million more females than males.  Why would Google+ have such a high ratio of males?  Keep reading for my guess.

google plus male female It Looks Like College Students are the Majority of Google+ Users

Age and Employer Breakdown

50.4% of all users on Google+ are between the ages of 18-24 and over 20% of all users list Student as their occupation.  The occupation shouldn’t be all that surprising if 50% of all users are in that age bracket.  Google+ is either going very strongly for the younger demographic or this age group just happens to flock to the service.  I imagine a lot of this is because of Google’s strength with their Gmail service among individuals in that demographic.

google plus age breakdown It Looks Like College Students are the Majority of Google+ Users

Do People Actually Use Google+?

So I think this is the real question.  I’ll admit to not being the power social media user that I was a few years ago, but I never use the Google+ profile that I created in the launch phase.  When I log into my account it doesn’t look like many of my friends spend a lot of time there either.  Do we really need or want another social media presence or do we just keep a profile there because we know the power of Google’s search engine?

I just asked my fiancé, who is one of the biggest Facebook power users I know, if she uses Google+.  Her response was, “Nope, but I got a profile there just to have one.”  I imagine that probably says a lot about why the female adoption is so low.  Females are some of the most active users on Facebook and from the early days have spent hours looking through friends’ photos and keeping up with relationship statuses.  The network effects that Facebook has already created and the, dare I say, dependence that many females in their 20’s have on the service will keep it relevant where something like Google+ will be something that early adopters “try out.”

Who Cares About User Account Totals?

The one piece of data that this report doesn’t share is user engagement with the service.  Facebook claims more than 800 million “active” users with more than 50% of these active users logging in on any given day.  Google+ has 90 million user accounts, but how many of them are actually active?  The real value of a network isn’t in how many accounts you have but what people do with their account.  The one interesting thing about this is that Google might be the one company on the planet that could care less how active their 90 million users are as long as their account information is up to date.  Think about it for a second.  As long as they have all the most up to date information on us and know what accounts we are active on then they can collect all the information that they need from us.  I’m not saying that active users wouldn’t be nice, but Google is in a unique position and does not need activity to declare their service a success.

Final Thoughts

When you look at the engagement data published I can’t help but get a little freaked that Google is using Google+ to amass a digital footprint of their users across the web.  With 96% of Google revenue coming from advertising this enhanced data about us helps them deliver better and more specific advertising.  Maybe that isn’t a totally bad thing but as I’ve said before how much do you really want Google to know about you?

I’m actually happy to see that the percentage of connected profiles, such as Facebook and Twitter, to Google+ isn’t higher.  With both of those sites being much larger and assuming they share much of the same user base it means that everyone isn’t comfortable with Google knowing everything about them.  Of course in the interest of full disclosure I do have my Google+ account linked to all my other accounts on the web.  I’m also very cautious about what I share and how it could be perceived.  I hope that everyone else is as informed.

So what do you think of the data?  What does it tell you?

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About the author

Kyle James

Kyle is the CEO & Co-Founder at nuCloud and formerly the webmaster at Wofford College. He also spent almost 4 years at HubSpot doing a range of jobs including inbound marketing consulting, sales, management, and product management.  Kyle is an active contributor in the social media spectrum. Although his background is technical, he claims to know a thing or two about marketing, but mostly that revolves around SEO, analytics, blogging, and social media. He has spoken at multiple national conferences and done countless webinars on topics ranging from e-mail marketing to social media and Web analytics. He's definitely a fairly nice guy.

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  • http://twitter.com/VarsityOutreach Mark Rothbaum

    Really interesting post. That demographic split is strange. Personally, I’m in the same boat as you. I created a Google+ account to see what it was all about but Facebook is where I spend my time.

    While I agree that Google can leverage your data in a way most other companies couldn’t, I disagree that they couldn’t care less about active users.

    First, Facebook competes with Google for online advertising dollars, and it has the reach to compete with Google. If I’m an organization that wants to spend money in online ads, but doesn’t want to manage a bunch of accounts, Google used to be my go-to option (huge reach with one account). Now, Facebook could also be that option.

    Second, not all of Facebook’s content is public. It’s creating a huge walled garden of content that may not be accessible to Google’s spiders (contrast that with Twitter, in which most people’s tweets are public). This content could give Facebook a leg up in targeting ads. I may used to have turned to Google when deciding what TV or phone to buy. Now, I may turn to my Facebook friends for suggestions. In this scenario, Facebook now has the opportunity to serve relevant ads while I’m considering a purchase decision.

    Also, I’m not sure there’s any real reason to trust Facebook more with my data than Google. Both have a pretty significant amount of information about me. Like you, I’m fairly careful about my account, both in what I post and who I friend (as well as with whom I share when I do post).

    • http://doteduguru.com Kyle James

      Hey Mark – you make some really good points here.  I’m not trying to say that they don’t care about user activity I’m just saying that they can afford to care less than most companies.  At the end of the day if there aren’t any active users then the whole network will go belly up in irrelevance.  I think they are doing some pretty interesting things with the new Android OS to bring more relevance out of Circles.  It does have me thinking how long after Facebook goes public do they try and build their own cell phone or some sort of way leverage their service to take over your address book on your phone?

      Another note on the Facebook Ad buying that I found incredible powerful in the book “The Facebook Effect” is when they were talking about Google’s marketing power vs Facebook’s potential power.  Here is the quote below.

      “For all Google’s success, it operates almost
      entirely within a relatively small sector of the overall advertising
      industry. Only 20 percent—at most—of the world’s $600 billion in annual
      advertising spending is spent on ads aimed at people who already know
      what they want, Sandberg’s researchers discovered. The remaining 80
      percent, or $480 billion a year, was up for grabs as more and more ad
      spending shifted to the Internet.”

      Basically what this is saying is that Google can only target you if you know what you want like a digital camera when you search for it.  Facebook has the ability to let advertisers target 30-40 yr old new fathers who SHOULD be looking to buy a digital camera and capture their new child’s life.  That suggestive “physiological” marketing segment is 5x larger than Googles!  And Facebook lets you target your marketing dollar like never before.  That is why Google wants into that data.  And always, thanks for commenting!

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