Is Google Plus already nearly half as big as Twitter?

I’m a long-time Twitter skeptic. One of my major frustrations with Twitter is that its true size is grossly overstated. This point was best articulated by Ian McKee in “How Many Users Does Twitter REALLY Have?” As he stated:

According to its “about” page, Twitter has 175 million registered users. But “registered users” is a funny term…

  • There were 119 million Twitter accounts following one or more other accounts.
  • There were 85 million accounts with one or more followers.

With these figures, and Twitter’s claim of 175 million accounts, a little subtraction shows us that there are 56 million Twitter accounts following zero other accounts, and 90 million Twitter accounts with zero followers.

Those are some interesting figures, because they show us Twitter is much smaller than the “175 million!” number might lead us to believe…

But they still don’t answer our question: How many active users does Twitter have?

To get close to answering that question with this data, we have to take a guess at how many accounts an “active” Twitter user follows…

So let’s say an “active” Twitter user is someone who follows at least 10 other accounts.

How many such “active” Twitter users are there? Our source’s API data shows that there are 56 million accounts on Twitter following 8 or more accounts. There are only 38 million following 16, and just 12 million following 64.

Now, a couple of disclaimers before I go any further: first, McKee’s column is a few months old, so the numbers would likely be a little higher if he wrote it today. In addition, McKee admits that some guesswork is required to determine “how many accounts an ‘active’ Twitter user follows.”

This much is indisputable, however: when it comes to an objective view on the number of active Twitter users, an analysis like McKee’s is much closer to reality than Twitter’s official stats.

Image from

Now, here’s the interesting thing: yesterday, Mashable reported that Google Plus now has more than 25 million users, and that users are spending more time on the site. Obviously, not all of those users are “active.” But if you buy into McKee’s logic at all, it’s clear that Google Plus–at just over one month old–may soon have half as many “active” users as Twitter, which was launched more than five years ago. And given the cautious approach Google has taken to opening the gates to Google Plus, it’s likely that it will continue to grow rapidly over time.

That’s just one reason why I’m spending less time on Twitter, and likely to spend even more time on Google Plus. What’s your opinion? Do you think McKee’s numbers are “fuzzy math,” or do you agree that Google Plus is already starting to challenge Twitter when it comes to the real numbers?

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6 Responses to Is Google Plus already nearly half as big as Twitter?

  1. What I love about Twitter is the simplicity of it. I can jump on, make a few comments, reply to a few things, and get off of it. With Google+, it’s much more like Facebook in that it takes me time to get through the longer posts, photos, etc. Twitter is still more attractive to me right now. I do like Google+ in a lot of ways but it’s not the default for me. Yet.

  2. Hey Anthony! I’m at the eduweb conference in San Antonio and you wouldn’t believe it but everyone here thinks Twitter will be the next big thing for colleges. There was a college student who co-presented and he said students use Twitter as an information exchange whereas they use Facebook to connect and have conversations.

    Google+ wasn’t even discussed at this conference. It was brought up casually a few times but that’s it. I read an article the other day that Google+ could be great for faculty and students since you can set up circles and I think that’s an interesting idea. I haven’t played around with Google+ much yet and I’m really hoping Zuck will add in a cirlces-like feature to Facebook soon.

  3. ajjuliano says:

    Thanks for the comments, Robyn and Michelle. Michelle, I think Google Plus is a slow burn. They’re taking their time because they’re confident that this time they got it right. I can see HUGE potential in Google Plus Hangouts and Huddle for faculty (in fact, I was just thinking this morning of how I could connect with students once a week via Google Plus Hangout as a supplement to the in-class discussion). It needs to build critical mass, though, but I think that will come with time.

    Oh, and Facebook already has a “Circles-like” feature: Facebook Lists (see It’s a pain to set up, though, and it’s used by very few Facebook members. The difference with Google Plus is that Circles is a. there from the start, so using it is much more intuitive, b. built into G+’s “infrastructure,” so that it’s more likely to be used, and c. easier to use. Circles is what Lists could have been.

  4. ajjuliano says:

    Michelle, one thing I forgot to mention: I think higher ed as a whole is generally behind the curve with regard to social media, although I think Ivy Tech is an exception to that for sure. I may be wrong, but your conference speakers may be 24 months too late on Twitter.

  5. I am interested to see how this shakes out. I really enjoy interacting with my friends on Twitter. I also want to see Google+ succeed, but I haven’t really figured out how Google+ will best work for me. I should spend more time with Google+ but that is easier said than done. I will continue to interact with my online friends where they are and for now that is still mostly on Twitter.

    • ajjuliano says:

      Thanks for the comment, Rick. I’m interested to see how it shakes out, too. I’ve found that my time on Twitter, which was never much to begin with, has dropped to almost nothing. That may be more a result of an especially busy time at work, but Google Plus may be the thing that drives me away from Twitter altogether. Different tools work well for each of us, though, so I expect there are others who have no interest in Google Plus and would never move away from Twitter.

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