Google, Twitter Flaunt Social Stats … It’s Like 2003 All Over Again

google-twitter-logosWhether on purpose or not, Google and Twitter are having a little back-and-forth this week about the size of their social networks — or, maybe more accurately, about the activity levels on their social networks.

Google+ has X amount of users and the +1 button gets served Y times per day. Twitter delivers N tweets every day and saw P new signups just yesterday. It’s all quite reminiscent of the early/mid 2000s, when all of major search engines made a sport out of bragging over the number of pages they’d indexed.

But does it mean anything? Well, yes and no. Let’s dive in….

Google+ & +1 Button Usage Stats

For starters, Google CEO Larry Page spilled the beans Thursday during the company’s earnings call. He also shared the details on Google+ (in a post that’s been +1′d 7,785 times and shared more than thousand times, if you need to know):

  • Google+ now has more than 10 million users
  • Google+ sees more than “one billion items shared and received” per day
  • The Google +1 button is “being served 2.3 billion times a day”

Page also reported that 550,000 Android devices are being activated per day, and the Chrome browser now has more than 160 million users.

Twitter Usage Stats

Twitter followed up today — the 5th anniversary of its public launch as Twttr — with some stats of its own, shared, naturally, via Twitter.

  • Twitter is “delivering 350 billion tweets a day” (source tweet)
  • Just yesterday, Twitter “saw more than 600,000 signups” (source tweet)

Twitter also mentioned that there were 224 tweets sent on its launch day in 2006, and that today that many tweets are sent “in less than a tenth of a second.” There’s also a separate blog post announcing that there are now one million registered Twitter apps.

But as I said above, whether it’s intentional or not, that first stat — 350 billion tweets per day — is something of a throwdown to Google after its announcement of one billion items per day on Google+. “Hey, Google, you have a loooooong way to go.”

Does It All Mean Anything?

The problem with some of the numbers coming out this week is a lack of context. In Google’s case, there are several unanswered questions:

  • If I share a Search Engine Land link on Google+ that six other people share, is that seven shares in Google’s count, or just one because it’s all the same URL?
  • When Larry Page says that the +1 button gets served 2.3 billion times per day, does that include the 10 times it gets served for every search results page on Google.com?
  • “Served” is one thing, but how many times are people clicking on +1 buttons?

Likewise with Twitter’s numbers,

  • Does 350 billion tweets include retweets, or just original messages?
  • How many of the 600,000 signups are spam accounts, like this one, that are (hopefully) bound to be removed?
  • How many of the new accounts are actually from different people? (I have a handful of accounts that I own and operate, and most people I know maintain multiple accounts.)

It reminds me of the “old days” of search engines bragging and fighting over which one had the biggest index.

In 2003, ResourceShelf wrote about Google and AllTheWeb one-upping the other over index size. In 2005, it was Google and Yahoo fighting over who had the bigger index and even how index size should be measured. Google dropped the web page count from its home page in 2005, but in 2007, the company announced that it was three times bigger than its rivals. Finally, in 2008, Google said that it knows of one trillion items on the web but, as Danny Sullivan pointed out in that article, “more documents doesn’t necessarily mean better relevancy.”

And there’s an analogy in the social space, too:

1. More Google+ users doesn’t necessarily mean a better social experience. In fact, I’d suggest that one reason so many in the tech industry have fallen in love with Google+ is that the “great unwashed masses” aren’t using the service yet. (According to Find People on G+, almost 60% of Google+ users are engineers, developers, designers and software engineers. And almost 74% are male.) I’ve seen people commenting on Google+ and elsewhere that they wish Google would not allow businesses to create a presence on Google+.

2. Twitter reaching 350 billion tweets also doesn’t necessarily mean a better experience for its users. For some, it only means more noise. And let’s not forget that it’s already hard enough to find old tweets.

facebook-logo

Facebook: Almost A Breath Of Fresh Air

I actually found it refreshing last week when CEO Mark Zuckerberg casually mentioned that Facebook had reached 750 million users, and said that the company decided not to announce that when it happened because “you don’t measure the Internet’s value based on how many people use it.”

Still, Facebook does maintain and update a statistics page, and as Danny Sullivan pointed out in Has Facebook Become The Master Key To Unlocking The Web?, Facebook’s never previously been shy about announcing statistical accomplishments for its Like buttons, widgets, user numbers and other things.

Final Thoughts

The Google+, +1 button and the Twitter stats are important, at least to the degree that we can keep an eye on various milestones and analyze how the companies’ products are growing … or how they’re not growing, as is sometimes the case.

But actual usage is what matters most — consistent, longterm usage. MySpace isn’t struggling because of a lack of accounts; a lot of us still have accounts there, but we’ve stopped using them.

So let’s all keep this stuff in mind when search/tech companies announce their latest milestones. It’s not just sheer size that matters, but the usage and context around those numbers that count the most.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Features: Analysis | Google: +1 | Google: Google+ | Stats: Popularity | Stats: Size | Top News | Twitter

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.douglife.com Douglas Montgomery

    Matt, I’m not sure if it’s me, but I love this articles written style. So much content, very easy to get the points and read.

    Also, you mentioned spam could be in these numbers, but what about buying “facebook likes”, “+1′s”, “Tweets”, etc. How can they even account for that kind traffic?

    I noticed there wasn’t a mention of Tulalip, so it’s safe to say Microsoft is allowing the G+ / Twitter dust to settle?

    What all of this buzz tells me is that people are thirsty for the PERFECT social platform, but:

    A.) They don’t know exactly what that is.
    B.) And there is an increasing amount of social users across the board.

    Great article Matt.

  • Matt McGee

    Thx for the kind words, Douglas – appreciate it. And you raise a good point about the, ummm … illegitimacy of some social activity (buying likes, buying followers, etc.). As far as MSFT goes, I get the impression they’re a ways away from doing anything, but I reserve the right to be wrong. :-)

  • Christian Greiner

    Thanks for putting it into perspective Matt. Its true, we do get caught up in numbers sometimes without thinking about how those numbers are derived or whether they even contribute to a better user experience.

  • TimmyTime

    Bravo Matt,
    great to read a balanced article when it comes to Google here. many G articles here seems to have been written by Google’s PR department

  • http://greatquestionhq.com A.S.

    Looks like Digg totally died in there, along with Myspace. Digg was the original of these kinds of sharing icons, I don’t even see a Digg badge on this site for instance. Too bad that was a groundbreaking project.

  • http://primate.co.uk Gordon McLachlan

    I know it’s silly to say but I do think Google has an unfair advantage over Facebook and Twitter with it’s +1 button as essentially it can leverage the fact that it affects – to some degree – search engine rankings. That’s going to be a huge draw to anyone.

  • http://ambitiousceo.tumblr.com Edward Agyeman

    Matt,

    What a well written article. Fred Wilson shared this on his Tumblr, that’s how I got here. I have a rule: “You don’t find great content, it finds you”

    Keep perfecting this craft.

    Bless.

  • Matt McGee

    Even when Digg was at the height of its popularity, we probably wouldn’t have had a Digg button because the community there has always hated SEO. We wrote about this several years ago:

    http://searchengineland.com/diggers-cant-handle-the-truth-about-seo-10479

  • Matt McGee

    Thx Timmy, but if that’s your opinion, you might want to read some more articles. We always aim to call a spade a spade, and when Google (or any company) deserves to be called out on something, we do it without hesitation.

  • Aliakbar Yazdi

    Bravo Matt, useful source post for write new post . thanks allot …

  • http://trentonhymas.wordpress.com Trent Hymas

    Great post! unbelievable stats! In the end all that matters is that users are having a great experience!

  • http://www.blackfridayonlinedeals2011.com/ B.F.

    Twitter.com Page Rank = 0 What’s google doing ?

  • http://halfoffdepot.com jonathannelson

    One thing Google does have that Twitter doesn’t is speed and uptime. For example, when trying to view those tweets above I was presented with a fail whale. Now that we have Google Plus I think Twitter is a ticking time bomb.

  • http://www.magestore.com Ngo Van Trung

    I recently found a site: http://www.plusg.info There are over 10M profiles indexed by that site. Does anyone think that is true?

  • Sitaram Asur

    Twitter Blog (http://blog.twitter.com/2011/08/your-world-more-connected.html) says they get over 200 million tweets a day, not the 350 billion you report. The 350 billion tweet was just a speculative comment.

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