According to Search Engine Land, around a billion people around the world use Google each month, but so far, the number of those who’ve taken the steps to join Google+ are relatively small.  Depending on who you talk to, membership is somewhere between 40 and 80 million right now.  It’s not exactly small beans, but it’s not exactly Facebook either.  Yet.

This matters.  Google needs to overlay demographic data onto their search index to make results more relevant to users.  User centric personalisation is fine when someone is repeating a search, but you need pre-emptive personalisation to give better  results if someone hasn’t searched on a subject before.  For Google, this means understanding about who you are and what people like you want to see.  Google already capture vast amounts of data about users, but having their own social network means that they can get even more.

According to TechCrunch, Google’s quest to get more data about users just took a big step forward.  When  registering a phone using the new Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android, users are requested to enter their credit card details, and sign up for Google+.

Ice Cream Sandwich

Ice Cream Sandwich. Tasty?

This could well be the tipping point For Google+

The latest stats on Android is that there are nearly half a million new devices being activated every day.  Not all of them are going to be running Ice Cream Sandwich at first, and historically it’s taken a while for each new iteration of Android to filter out to the masses, however Google have also released the source code for the OS, which should mean that it will be on older phones quickly.

It’s also nearly Christmas, which means even more demand for smartphones.

Back in March 2010, GigaOM predicted that by this Christmas, half of Americans would have a smart phone.  That’s probably not unrealistic, and given that Android currently boasts a 52.5% marketshare, it means that a pretty sizable jump in the number of people getting a reminder to join Google+ is likely at Christmas.

Google+ is at the heart of Google’s social strategy, encouraging people to log in and remain logged in across devices is essential if you want to be able to target them with advertising on a consistent basis.  If people jump from device to device it can be hard to get all the behavioural information that Google want, however if they are always within the Google eco system, then they can be tracked at all times.

The way I see it, there are two main things that are stopping Google+ from making the jump to the mainstream:

  • It doesn’t yet have quite enough members on it to encourage more people to join in
  • It isn’t getting the kind of coverage within other people’s advertising that Facebook and Twitter are

In many ways, it’s the former that is preventing the latter from taking place.

The thing is, once Google+ starts counting members in 8 figures rather than 7 – which could happen at Christmas – and companies start investing in promoting their shiny new Google+ Pages in their other marketing, both of those problems are going to evaporate.

There is no way that Facebook is going to decline  into a zombie network overnight* – it’s way too ingrained in our daily lives for that to happen, but as soon as we get a compelling reason to have a richer social interaction on Google+, we’ll find it becoming a bigger part of our daily lives, which brings us full circle the ultimate goal of the service, giving Google the data it really needs to overlay it’s existing search relevance with the demographic profiling it needs to preemptively personalise results for users.

* Statements like this can make people look very stupid very quickly.  Often overnight.

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