Google Plus pages closing the gap on Facebook

Google Plus rolled out with a bang in the days following its release, as many were curious to see how it compared to their current social network of choice, Facebook.

After a strong initial showing, buzz about Google Plus died down some, as its delay to include brand pages hurt its prospects and popularity.

However, the launch of Google Plus pages for business on November 7 brought it back into prominence, and according to BrightEdge's December SocialShare report, 77 of the top 100 brands now have their own brand pages on Google's social network. This represents a 26 percent increase from the 61 who had pages in November.

And while Google Plus still trails Facebook, where 93 of the top 100 brands have pages on the site, it's still an impressive feat, particularly because Facebook launched its brand pages in November 2007, giving it a four-year head start on Google. Also, some companies, including Google itself, as well as IBM and Vodafone, have a Google Plus page but not an official Facebook page.

In addition, researchers found that the number of fans who added these brands to their Circles has grown more than 50 percent since last month, to a combined 222,000.

The most popular brand page on Google's social network is Google itself, which has more than 91,000 followers. YouTube is next at around 75,0000 followers, while Starbucks has quadrupled its fan base to 38,000 over the past month. Search Engine Watch adds that Pepsi is making moves as well, rising to more than 20,000 fans.

One primary benefit stressed by Google for owning a brand page on its social network is the fact that they'll be featured within search results, essentially blurring the lines between social media and search. The news source cites a recent PageLever study that found 34 percent of Facebook fan page referrals came via Google, Yahoo and Bing searches, proving that Google may be trying to corner the social market.

"Google is embedding their popular new product with its dominant search marketing position, replicating the tie between social and search channels, just as Facebook's Open Graph tied sites and search together earlier this year, blurring the lines between social and search engagement," said Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge, as quoted by SEW. "Top 100 brands are realizing that they now need to address both channels. Now the real work begins, if they want to extend their social presence on the web from Facebook to the new Google Plus."