Yes, seeing that number for the first time even surprised us given that the last official Google figure for Google+ was just 40 million users. Given the effort that goes into designing our surveys in each market and the extensive quality control procedures that we and our partners have in place, we always believe what the data tells us and our data is always spot on when compared with other sources. Hence, this is a case of trying to understand why and how Google+ can actually have 150 million users worldwide. In reality, these are active social network users who at least have an account on Google+; whether or not they are active on Google+ specifically is a different story. When we looked into it further, we didn't find anyone else who had any type of figures and Google has been suspiciously quiet since their Q3 financial statement that gave us that 40 million user number.
We did find, however, anecdotal evidence that supports GWI findings on the active Google+ user base. Firstly, there was this conversation with Don Dodge, a Developer Advocate at Google, where he states that "Any numbers you've heard are way low." There are also people such as Paul Allen who are tracking the numbers of last names on Google+ to estimate subscriber figures. Allen says that Google+ subscriber numbers were growing at 2 million a day in September 2011 based on his methodology, meaning there are much more than 40 million Google+ users.
In addition to the evidence above, there are practical reasons why Google+ has surpassed Twitter and is closing in on Facebook. The main thing that springs to my mind is Google's ambition to integrate social into everything it does as has been express by Google CEO, Larry Page. What this means is that Google+ will be a much more subtle part of its users lives than other social networks. Through the integration of its other services such as gmail, reader, picassa, etc., Google has essentially made Google+ the hub of all of Google's social activities, and users of any number of Google services now have incentives to have a Google+ profile.
Furthermore, Google has one key advantage over the likes of Facebook and Twitter: Android. Android smartphones have taken the smartphone market by storm, and the more people access the internet through their mobile devices, the more their activity is channeled through Google's ecosystem. Deep Google+ integration into Android devices provides further incentives for Android owners to utilise Google+ services thanks to the better mobile experience they provide. Click here for more details on how Google+ is being integrated into Android.
Based on what we've read, the fact that Google+ has the third highest number of active users of any social network or micro-blog platform is impressive but is, indeed, very likely. Facebook, which has 474 million active users across the 27 GWI markets, should start to take notice as should Twitter which has a user base half the size of Google+. Google+ is growing at a much faster rate than Facebook did when it was first launched and is not far from overtaking Sina Weibo as the world's second most popular social media service. Moreover, Google+ is already a global social power player with only 15 million of its users located in its home market, the United States.
The latest GWI data proves that brands need to take Google+ seriously. Not only because the service has 150 million users across the 27 GWI countries but also because Google is intent on building social into the very fabric of its services. This means that everything from search to email to Android will be influenced by Google+. Google+ branded pages are now beginning to appear at the top of organic search results for example! If there are any brands out there who didn't want to put the effort into Google+ because it was just another social network and Facebook and Twitter are enough, I suggest you start to rethink that strategy.