Google+ set to become second only to Facebook

Study: Google+ to surpass Twitter, LinkedIn within year, looms on Facebook

Google's fledgling Google+ is set to become the second-largest social network in the U.S. within the next year, according to a study released this week.

The rise of Google+ is also going to eat into Facebook's already substantial base, noted a study released by YouGov, an international Internet-focused market research firm based in the U.K.

"Google+ is starting off extremely strong," said Michael Nardis, head of YouGov investment products, in a statement. "It's chipping away at engagement levels on Facebook and Twitter. With Google reporting 25 million accounts already and an estimated 16 million more U.S. adults reporting that they plan to join over the coming year, Google+ can be a threat to both."

According to the YouGov report, Google+ is "well-positioned" to become second only to Facebook in the social networking world in the U.S. within the next 12 months. With the momentum the new site is showing, it should quickly pass by struggling MySpace and microblogging site Twitter and LinkedIn.

Google+ was unveiled at the end of June and quickly amassed millions of users, despite the fact that the social network is still in field trials and membership is invitation-only.

Right from the start, Google+ was seen as a significant challenge to Twitter, LinkedIn and especially Facebook, which has increasingly become a rival to Google, seeking to snare some of search company's ad dollars.

Now the YouGov study, which surveyed 1,003 U.S. adults online between July 29 and Aug. 2, shows that Google+ is making headway. The study noted that at this early point, 13% of U.S. adult Internet users have signed up for a Google+ account, with another 9% planning to sign up over the course of the next year.

And those who have joined Google+ are already engaged with what's happening on the site. For instance, YouGov reported that 45% of Google+ users say they read the site's content once a day or more. Only Facebook, with 62% of those surveyed, is higher among social networks.

And 46% of Google+ users say they post updates or links to the site at least once a week. Twitter has similar numbers but does not have quite as much engagement, with 42% saying they create content on the microblogging site.

However, not everyone who signed up for Google+ is that engaged. According to YouGov, 31% of early adopters said they already have abandoned the site or have not created any content on it.

The growth of Google+ could mean tough times ahead for its social networking rivals, including Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

"As Google+ gains followers, it is likely to negatively impact Facebook usage," the study reported. "Thirty percent of Facebook users who already use Google+ plan on cutting down time spent on Facebook this year."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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