With 250 million Google+ users now signed up does Google have reasons to celebrate?

Google+ has turned one and yesterday Google announced the progress it has made with its social platform. One year on from launch it has now signed up 250 million users and 150 million of those are active on a monthly basis.

Google is hoping that the growth will continue and to make sure that happens it has unveiled two new upgrades. They are a dedicated tablet app, for Android and iPad devices, and a service called Google+ Events, which does what it says on the tin and allows Google+ users to easily create and manage their events.

So will the team behind the social network be celebrating the anniversary with champagne or drowning their sorrows? 

Taking a quick look at the usage stats of the fledgling social network we can see that it hasn’t really grown significantly since its launch.  Aside from the odd spike in traffic around times when there was a big push, traffic to the site has remained reasonably flat since launch day.

(Please note: The graphs are looking at UK data only and it doesn’t look at people accessing Google+ via mobile, which accounts for over half of Google+ users according to Google.)

At first glance it would seem that Google+ hasn’t quite been the big hit Google would have liked it to be.  However the story isn’t quite as simple as that, as what Google have successfully managed to do is convince 250 million people to sign up to the service, even if they don’t come back too often.

What this has given Google is access to invaluable user data as when people sign up they are required to submit demographic data such as sex and age and optionally submit data on interests and passions.  Additionally once people have created a Google+ login they are automatically kept signed in to all Google properties such as Google Search and Youtube allowing them to more accurately track behaviour at an individual level across these sites.  All this demographic and behavioural data will allow Google to better target and charge more for ads (as ultimately selling ads is how Google makes money).

In February Google+ VP Bradley Horowitz told the Wall Street Journal that “We’re growing by every metric we care about” suggesting that even though people were not interacting with and spending as much time on Google+, that it did not matter to him.

However the extra competition in this space has been good for end users as some of Facebook’s newer features may have taken some inspiration from Google+.  The popular ‘circles’ feature became ‘smart lists’ in FB and the new video calling feature in being promoted on user’s Facebook profiles feels like it’s taken inspiration from Google+ hangouts.

So should Google be celebrating on its birthday?  Well if they are just looking to gather more user data allowing them to better target ads they’ve succeeded.  However if they were looking to create a social platform to rival the likes of Facebook, they’ve not.

However, Vic Gundotra, Senior VP of Social Business of Google, stressed this week that what most people get wrong is “that they compare Google+ to most competitors. It’s not Google+, its Google. YouTube, Gmail, and Google+ is the social graph that we’re growing, and to bring them into one Google experience”.