A small number of the world's "most valuable" brands have built a head of steam on Google+, with audiences approaching or exceeding 200,000. For many of the rest, the social platform is delivering slow growth at best. So says a new tally of Google+ brand fans by BrightEdge, a provider of social and search management tools.
BrightEdge examined the Google+ audiences of the 100 most valuable global brands, as determined by Millward Brown. It took the number of fans each had at the beginning of the second week in December, and compared it to the number it had two months later. The result: significant growth, at least on a first glance.
According to BrightEdge, "The number of people following/in circles with the top 100 brands exploded over 1400 per cent, from 222K to 3.1M." But a closer look reveals nearly all of that growth accrued to the top 10 brands. Together, that handful of brands - including Coca-Cola, Starbucks, eBay, and Amazon - has more than three million followers. That means a paltry 100,000 new fans were divvied up between the 11-100 most valuable brands on the list.
In other words, Google+ would appear to have a fat head of brand fans, a very skinny tail, and not much of a mid-section - at least when it comes to companies on Millward Brown's list.
This leads to a few possible conclusions: that the site's roughly 100 million are not yet looking to engage with brands; that they aren't engaging much with the platform in general; or that brands haven't yet figured out their Google+ strategies. It's also possible Millward Brown's top 100 list is not representative of brands that are popular on Google+. The list, it should be noted, does not include some big companies that have grown rapidly on Google+. Ford's 209,000 fans would place it eighth on BrightEdge's tally - ahead of Google itself.
To date none of the usual research industry suspects have published reliable engagement data or qualitative studies of Google+ that would illuminate possible reasons why more users are not putting brands in circles. ComScore and other big measurement firms tend to focus on unique monthly users, a metric with limited value in evaluating social media sites - where assessing popularity is often a matter of tracking daily or even hourly visits.
BrightEdge also notes a few major brands are so far sitting on the Google+ sidelines - among them Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, and Apple.