By Lucas Shaw
NEW YORK (TheWrap.com) - Google+ is still no Facebook, Twitter or even MySpace, but its decision to open its services to all users is already paying dividends.
Experian Hitwise, a market research company, reports that the site's market share in the social media world increased 1,269 percent last week.
Yes, you read that correctly. Not 12. Not 69. Not even 269. 1,269 percent.
Those 15 million visits to the site the week of Sep. 24 propelled Google+ inside the top 10 of most popular social networking sites, a category dominated by Facebook with its nearly 1.8 billion visits last week.
While the increase does not signal that Google+ is a real challenger to Mark Zuckerberg and company, it does position it to overtake sites like MySpace and Linkedin very soon if it continues to grow its following.
An Experian Hitwise spokesperson pointed out that the strongest positive indicator for continued growth was how its audience has expanded.
While it initially attracted mostly college students, who are deemed "early adopters," it is now luring in broader segments of the population.
The research company divides consumers into "fun" groups, and while Google+ first attracted those in "Colleges and Cafes" and "University Town," it has progressed to "Bohemian Groove" and "Hispanic Hospitality."
The former of those represents "older, divorced and widowed individuals enjoying settled urban lives" while the latter "middle class Hispanic families living lively lifestyles in city-centered neighborhoods." Those names and definitions may provoke more laughter than comprehension, but they mean that more varied groups of people are using the service.
The speed of this growth is also noteworthy, far exceeding that of sites like Facebook or Twitter. Now Google+ did open its gates to everyone faster as well. If you remember, Facebook waited some time before permitting non-students to sign up.
It is too early to tell whether or not this bump in traffic will be sustained, but the Experian Hitwise spokesperson indicated that the popularity of Google's other features -- Gmail, YouTube and, of course, search -- should push more people to use the site.
Search in particular was a big driver last week, so that big blue arrow pointing at Google+ must have worked.
But for how long?