Google: “In Stream” Activity On Google+ Doesn’t Only Happen On Google+ Itself

google-plus-logo-tiltGoogle reported this week that Google+ now has 300 million monthly “in stream” users — a number that places it well ahead of the 215 million monthly active users that Twitter recently listed in its pre-IPO S-1 document.

But, as is often the case with usage numbers (and not just those related to Google+), the definition of an “in stream” user isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

Ex-WSJ writer Amir Efrati wrote this week that, according to former Google employees, Google counts clicks on the Google+ notifications icon (currently a bell, formerly a red button) as being “in stream” on Google+.

A Google spokesperson confirmed with us that this is still the case:

Yes, clicking on the notifications bell does count in our monthly actives metric for the Stream. If you click anywhere which leads to the Stream being loaded and displayed, we count you as viewing the Stream. The Stream is rendered on mobile (Android and iOS), on the web at, and when you click and open a notification view of the Stream on desktop properties.

In other words, “in stream” doesn’t mean that’s how many people go to to consume content on Google+. Click the bell on YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs or any other place where it shows and Google counts you as “in stream” on Google+.

As I said above, and to be fair, this isn’t just a Google thing. If you click the Facebook “Like” button or the “Tweet” button up near the headline of this article, and you’re logged in to your account on either of those services, you count as a “monthly active user” even if you never actually visit or Twitter.

It makes comparing usage levels on social networks something of a cat-and-mouse game that’s likely to never end … not unless everyone agrees to some metric that offers an apples-to-apples comparison of usage and popularity. (Dream on, McGee.)

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Google | Google: Google+ | Social Media Marketing | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Michael Martinez

    All those Websites using Twitter, Facebook, and Google (among other services) to validate user comments are also polluting the metrics. You log in to a social media service to prove you’re not a bot, leave your comment, and move on and you never really were there in the social media account.

    These numbers will never be realistic.

  • Glenn Murray

    Makes perfect sense to me. If you click the bell, you’re accessing the stream. Doesn’t matter where. I agree with Michael, though. Counting social sign-ins seems a bit more like smoke and mirrors. Validating your ID is a completely different intent.

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