Google+'s growth exceeds expectations! Google+ is expected to hit 400 million users by the end of 2012 based on an expected 625,000 new users per day.
By the end of 2011, Google+ had grown from 10 million users on July 13th, 2011 to 62 million users by December 27, 2011. In 2011, social media experts were predicting it would have more users than Twitter & LinkedIn in a year, and may even reduce the number of active Facebook users.
That is not to say all news is good news. Just because Google+ is amassing sign-ups, doesn't mean everyone is participating. Even some of the individuals with the largest network (aka Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder) have not posted or interacted through the site. It has been reported that roughly 1/3 of Google+ users have abandoned their Google+ accounts before ever posting.
Are you looking to create a personal account? JOIN Google+
Want to create a business page? Create a Google+ page
In some aspects Google+ is very similar to Facebook or LinkedIn in that you can create a profile, add connections, see what your connections are up to, instant message/video chat, receive other website feed information (similar to RSS feeds), and mark items you like with a "+1" (Google's equivalent of the Facebook "like").
What makes Google+ different is that you can organize your connections into circles. And with those circles, tailor how individuals see specific messages, posts, comments, etc. Not just turn on or off certain features to a group (like Facebook or LinkedIn) but actually post items JUST to one group and maybe post something else to a different group. The ability to TAILOR your messaging is what sets Google+ apart from the rest.
At the end of 2011, Google+ introduced pages, similar to Facebook pages, that are specifically targeted to businesses.
Think of this as the Google equivalent of Facebook's "like" button. View the introduction video.
Many applications and websites are already integrating this new type of marker, including the popular website builder WordPress.
If you are a logged in member of Google+, you can see the +1 in action by searching on Google for anything. If you like a site, click the +1 to the right of that site, and you just gave that site your public stamp of approval. You can even add a comment about why. You can easily see your own +1's under your Google+ account information in its own tab. They can be public or private, or only available to your "circle".
All of those +1s really add up. You can even add a button and tally to your website to show off your aggregate +1 recommendations.
+1 search allows you to take it one step further by customizing the search results you see depending on the recommendations posted by yourself, your friends, and your Google+ circle. Just like with Google Place Search allowing nearby businesses and websites to show up first in your search list, Google+ allows recommended (+1'd) content to show up first, as well.
What does this mean for your business?
Want to get recognized and be at the top of search lists? If your customers are recommending you through +1s, you have the advantage over other sites in your area, and will show up closer to the top of your consumers search lists.
Everyone seems to agree that Google+ is here to stay and is looking to be the newest social media powerhouse. After all it IS Google!
So get on, create an account and your business page, play around and keep an eye out for upcoming articles on Google+.