It’s only natural in the lead-up to Facebook’s IPO that comparisons are getting made to Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), the tech world’s big IPO of 2004. A lot will be made about the two companies’ revenue, profit, the fanfare prior to their respective IPOs and other similarities. For instance, both were started by university students, both are now Internet giants, both are highly reliant on advertising revenue, to name a few.
But while Facebook is primarily a social networking site, Google comprises multiple lines of business, one of which — Google+ — was created specifically to compete directly with Facebook.
Given the name brand behind that rival social network, it raises several questions what could be key to Facebook’s ultimate success, or failure.
What’s the difference between Google+ and Facebook? How big a threat could Google’s social network be to Facebook? Is Facebook going leave Google+ behind like another MySpace, or is there room for both to co-exist? Where does one have the advantage versus its rival? Does Google even care about Google+’s success as a social network, or might it have other goals for it? Let’s have a look at how the two networks stack up.
How Many Users
The numbers change rapidly, but they currently look roughly like this: 170 million for Google+ to 845 million for Facebook. Google+ is technically still in beta release, and for a time, membership was by invite only. Despite that, it grew rapidly. While Facebook took two years (plus two years at a limited-access level) to reach the 100 million-user mark, Google+ did it in seven months. Google+ is adding 750,000 new users daily. In 2009, Facebook was hitting similar numbers, but its user base growth rate has since slowed and is expected to be 6.6% for 2012 (compared to near 40% in 2010).
Score this one for Facebook.
A Temple University study published demographic statistics about the two networking sites that show some key differences. Google+ is male-dominated (71%), while Facebook is more evenly distributed, but skewed toward females at 57%. Google+ is also preferred by the under-24 age group (50%), while 46% of Facebook users are aged 45 or older (only 14% are under 24).
Other studies identified Google+ users as primarily tech industry workers (software engineers, for example), and Google itself was the single largest employer of Google+ users, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Infosys (NASDAQ:INFY), IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) were also at the top.
At this point, demographics strongly favor Facebook. Google+ has been attracting a core group of users — which Bloomberg Businessweek describes as “male geeks from the U.S. — that is notoriously fickle and not known for spending a great deal of time socializing online. Facebook’s more mature, mixed demographic is less likely to jump to the next great thing and much more likely to actively engage online with friends and family.
If Google+ can’t make the transition to a more diverse, engaged user base, it won’t be able to compete with Facebook as a true social media service.
Another win for Facebook.