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Google+ Struggles Against Facebook in Genealogy


Two years after launching its social network, Google continues to struggle to attract people to the Google+ platform. In this article, we look at the relative popularity of Google+ versus Facebook for people who are interested in tracing their ancestors.

Progress has been slow for Google in the social network space. Google+ was first introduced in June 2011. Since that time, according to Reuters, the service has managed to accumulate 135 million active users (an active user is someone who engages with the service at least once a month). By comparison, Facebook has 1.1 billion active users and Twitter has 200 million active users. Thus, Facebook has about eight times the number of active users than Google+.

A detailed analysis of the data provides even more revealing information. According to Nielson Media Research, the average US visitor to Google+ spent 6 minutes and 47 seconds on the website in March 2013. The equivalent number for Facebook was more than 6 hours. The typical Facebook user is therefore on the website about 35 times longer than a typical Google+ user.

The difference in time spent on the two websites is too great to be easily dismissed. It would suggest Google+ users are using only certain features of the service (that may not be found on Facebook), but are not using the service as their main social network. We suspect this may also apply to the field genealogy, where certain features (such as the Google+ hangout) are used for genealogy webinars.

The value of any social network hinges on members’ engagement. The more members are engaged, the more valuable it becomes to other members. By this metric, Google+ has failed to gain the type of traction seen with Facebook or even with Twitter (even though Google+ recently surpassed Twitter in the total number of users, Twitter still has more active users). At GenealogyInTime Magazine, we wanted to compare the popularity of Google+ versus Facebook for people wanting to trace their ancestors.

Facebook global traffic
Facebook has a very large global footprint as shown in this image.

In this article, we have refrained from comparing the specific features of Facebook versus Google+ for genealogy. We do not consider such a comparison to be particularly useful. They have different features and approaches. Also, most people chose and use social networks for a variety of reasons well beyond just genealogy. The choice often comes down to a matter of personal preference, one that is heavily influenced by which social network is frequented by friends and family.

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