For Google+, User Count Is A Journey Not A Race

That’s a good thing because Google+ missed the starting gun. And its “invite only” launch strategy saw all its disconnect users flailing independently. But in the long run that might not matter much, because Google+ doesn’t need a critical mass or tons of engagement. It needs signups so it can get its identity layer under users of its other products. That way it can turn everyone’s searches, mapping, email, and more into fuel for its ad targeting engine.

While the 62 million count cited today by analyst Paul Allen might not sound like much, it’s a start, and the projected 293 million count by the end of 2012 is important. Our writer Eric Eldon breaks down that Allen’s count is of total users, not active ones. That’s worse, but the good news for Google is that the sign up rate is increasing. Its variety of in-roads to the service including the top navigation bar across Google products are work.

With enough cajoling, users are registering even if their social network needs are already being met by Facebook and Twitter.

Google may never beat those services in terms of engagement with a content stream. That’s even while taking a differentiated macronetwork approach of letting you efficiently manage Circles of any type of relationship from best friends, to loose acquaintances, to followed celebrities. But that’s fine because Google isn’t a dedicated social company out to make the world more open and connected.

At its core, Google is an online advertising company that offers a range of features to draw your time and data. It cares a lot about making great products, but they don’t drive the business directly. In that vein, Google+ doesn’t need to have the best news feed, it just needs users to sign up once and stay signed in.

If it takes Google 4 years to start catching up to Facebook in terms of user count, so be it. The company has plenty of money to burn so it can take this long-term approach. What matters isn’t when, but if if it can eventually grow its registration base large enough for Google+ to produce ROI.

As Larry Page said on the 2011 Q3 earnings call, by “baking identity into all of our products… you’ll have better, more relevant search results and ads.” When Google’s average user can be served high CPC ads for lawyers while they search for nearby restaurants because yesterday they searched for lawyers, then the journey is complete.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]