Google+ Catching Up with LinkedIn, MySpace

Facebook may be safe, at least for now, but LinkedIn and MySpace are in danger of getting run over by Google+. A new report from Hitwise Intelligence offers the details on the rise of Google's social network.

According to Hitwise, Google+ has earned bragging rights as the third-largest site in the "Social Network and Forums" category. Those bragging rights came one day after Google went from an invitation-only affair to public access.

"Opening access created a massive spike in market share of visits for the site, with a 1,269 percent growth from the week ending September 17th to the week of September 24th. The site also received nearly 15 million total U.S. visits last week," said Heather Dougherty, director of research at Hitwise. "In just one week, Google+ went from ranking as 54th most-visited site in our Social Networking and Forums category to eighth place."

For the same period, MySpace ranked seventh and LinkedIn ranked sixth in user visits.

The Next Evolution

Jake Wengroff, global director of social media strategy and research at Frost & Sullivan, has noticed that Google+ membership has exploded since the social network moved from invitation-only to open access a week ago.

"Google has been wise to make small, calculated improvements to the new network so as not to confuse or annoy members -- many of which have been matched by competitor Facebook, which itself has rolled out a competing feature to Google+'s Circles friend-management tool," Wengroff said.

"Companies, agencies and brands have been sitting on their hands for months as they await Google+'s rollout of pages. Currently, only Ford and General Motors enjoy this privilege, but when Google opens up this opportunity, expect a stampede of branded pages on Google+, all integrated with Google's other advertising and marketing products, most notably YouTube, AdWords, AdSense, Places, and Deals."

Understanding Google+

If you think Facebook makes changes quickly, consider the evolution of Google+. The project was in field trial for just under 90 days, and during that time the team made 91 changes to the social network, like the ability to share circles, welcoming Zynga's CityVille to Google+ games, and announcing a version of Google+ for Apple's iOS. The most recent change was Hangout for your phone and Search in Google+.

Google+ looks somewhat like Facebook, with feeds of photos, messages, comments and updates from friends. The Google service also taps into other products like Google Maps.

One Google+ feature is Sparks, an online sharing engine that delivers a feed of what Vic Gundotra, Google senior vice president for engineering, calls "highly contagious content" from across the Internet on any topic in more than 40 languages. Users can add their interests and watch, read and share content within any circle of friends. A feature called Hangouts combines the casual meet-up with a live multi-person video.

A feature called Mobile lets users share what's around, right now, via a mobile phone. Google+ can add a user's location to every post if desired. Finally, Huddle lets users coordinate with friends and family in the here and now. Rather than relying on phone calls and text messages, Huddle offers a group messaging experience that lets everyone inside the circle know what's going on in real time.