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Facebook might hold the top spot as the largest social network of active users by a very wide margin, but the battle for second place is heating up. According to research by Global Web Index, Google+ stole the #2 spot from Twitter during the fourth quarter of 2012.But that's not the only good news for Google. YouTube (owned by Google) landed in the #3 spot, which means Twitter dropped to fourth place. Lagging behind in 11th place and 17th place were LinkedIn and Pinterest, respectively.

Taking a Closer Look at the Numbers

To put things into perspective, let's take a look at the data from the Global Web Index report. Following are some statistics related to active users tracked by Global Web Index between the second and fourth quarters of 2012:#1 Facebook: Facebook's monthly active users grew by 33% between the second quarter and fourth quarter of 2012 to 693 million, which equates to 51% of the global internet population.#2 Google+: Global Web Index tracked a 27% growth rate for Google+ during the same time period bringing it to 343 million active users. That equates to 25% of the global internet population.#3 YouTube: Web Index didn't begin tracking YouTube as part of its social networks study until the fourth quarter of 2012, so growth rates weren't tracked in this report. However, it did include data related to monthly active YouTube users, which was approximately 300 million or 21% of the global internet population.#4 Twitter: A 40% growth rate for Twitter brought it to 288 million active monthly users or 21% of the global internet population.

Don't Underestimate the Importance of Google+

Google+ got a lot of negative backlash when it launched after a number of failed attempts by Google to develop a social platform. It's still not close to as popular as Facebook, but it's importance shouldn't be underestimated, particularly for online publishers.Consider the fact that together, Google+ and YouTube are actively used by 46% of the global internet population. Next, consider that Google+ and social activities are starting to integrate more seamlessly through Google's varied products, including Google search. Finally, consider what all of this Google integration means for the future of search and the internet.Bottom-line, if you're not already actively sharing your content and building relationships with your audience on Google+, you should be.Image: Brian Hawkins of Hot Blog Tips

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