Google’s integration of user-driven information into its search results is especially apparent in the travel space. Though much maligned stateside, Google+ has a growing worldwide footprint, and research shows the network’s rising influence during the travel planning phase.
According to TripAdvisor’s “TripBarometer,” which surveyed more than 15,000 travelers worldwide in January 2013, 40% of respondents that had used social media sites to research and plan their last trip looked to Google+, making it the second most popular social network after Facebook for travel research.
In addition, 22% of respondents to TripAdvisor’s survey said they found Google+ to be the most useful social network for travel planning. By comparison, only 6% of travelers combined said they found Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram the most useful social networks for this activity.
Many marketers and digital industry pundits contend that the Google+ user base—some 343 million internet users worldwide in Q4 2012, according to GlobalWebIndex—is smoke and mirrors, and that many people are not engaging the site like a traditional social network.
Whether that’s the case, the site’s nomenclature—regardless if it’s “officially” a social network—has little bearing on its influence for travel research. Google+ continues to integrate content—including photos from travelers, travel brands and destinations, along with user reviews from Zagat—into an increasingly larger space on the right side of the search engine results pages. When users click in that space, they’re rerouted to a Google+ Local Page, and they’re “using” Google+ whether they realize it or not.
Additionally, Google+ detractors tend to take a US-centric view, and indeed, penetration is quite low in the US, at only 6% of internet users, according to GlobalWebIndex data from Q2 2012. Worldwide, penetration goes much deeper. More than 25% of internet users in 17 different countries accessed or posted on Google+ at least once a month that quarter—that includes more than 100 million users in China, more than 40 million in India, and more than 20 million each in Brazil and Indonesia.
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