On July 27th, Google made another major move related to Google Plus. In the coming months you will no longer be required to have a Google+ account to use Google’s other services, such as YouTube. Their reasoning is covered in detail in a post by Google VP of Social, Photos & Streams, Bradley Horowitz, called Everything in its right place. This was also covered by The Verge and Marketing Land.
Horowitz also announced in his post that Google+ will now be more tightly focused on connecting people around common interests. He cited the new Collections feature as a first step in that direction, but hinted much more is to come.
As we look forward to a new era on Google+, we can now focus on what we need to do to maximize what we get out of it as a social network, and on what we need to do to maximize our engagement there.
In order to measure engagement on Google+, we took a look at 33,282 posts on Google+, and sliced and diced them based on the nature of their content. This post will show you what we found. As a bonus, in the final section we compare these results to what we found in a similar study of tweets on Twitter.
First, here’s a video summarizing the findings of this study. Jump past the video to get all the details.
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The Power of Photos (Images)
Including a photo was one of the strongest factors in generating engagement in the study.
This tells you the power of images in a nutshell. Your chances of getting engagement with your Google+ post go up dramatically when you let the picture tell the story.
Plus Mentions Carry a Lot of Weight Too
For reference, plus mentions are the way of referencing other users on Google+, by putting a plus sign (+) in front of their user name. The mention is turned into a link to that user’s profile, and the user gets a notification that you mentioned him or her. It turns out that plus mentions also proved to be a very powerful way to increase your engagement.
In fact, posts with a plus mention are more likely to be reshared than posts with photos. We will expand more on this a bit later.
Gotta Love Those Hashtags
Hashtags have been known to drive engagement for some time, and now I can present to you some hard numbers on just how much impact they have:
The impact on +1s and Reshares is quite dramatic, but there appears to be little impact on the chances of getting a reply.
Videos Not Getting The Deal Done
Here is the first real shocker. Sharing a video appears to reduce your chances of engagement. Let’s look at the raw numbers:
Ouch, that looks bad! However, this includes videos that were auto-shared via YouTube (usually because the user made a comment on a video), and those videos are not likely to get much engagement at all. To explore that, we pulled data on an additional 22,847 G+ posts that included videos to see how videos that were auto-shared from YouTube compare with those that were shared directly via a native Google+ post:
As you can see, a video shared natively via Google+ is 6x as likely to get reshared as one auto-shared from YouTube!
Does Post Length Matter?
This data was pretty interesting too. There seems to be a clear sweet spot for post length on Google+:
Posts between 500 and 1000 characters get the most engagement across the board.
Maximizing Engagement on Google+ Summary
The following table contains a summary of the data for all the post attributes we examined:
The data shows how many times more likely a post is to get a reshare, +1, or reply if it has the attribute than if it does not. The following examples may help you better understand what it’s telling us:
- A post is .73 times as likely to get a +1 if it’s an event than if it’s not an event (i.e., it’s less likely).
- A post with a link placed in the text of the post is 1.97 times as likely to get reshared than if it does not have a link in the text of the post.
- A post with a photo is 2.38 times as likely to get replies as a post without a photo.
Differences Between Google+ and Twitter
Back in December of 2014 I published our data on Twitter engagement in our study titled Twitter Engagement Unmasked. In that study I looked at more than 2 million western language tweets to see what it is that makes Twitter tick. So how does that differ from Google+?
Google+ is a Discussion Platform
Replies to posts are 22.7 times more likely on Google+:
Mentions Drive Engagement on Google+ but not on Twitter
As you saw above, plus mentions on Google+ appear to have a very powerful impact on overall engagement. On Twitter the story is quite different. The chances of getting at least one retweet go up incrementally when you @mention someone, by approximately 1.3 times. On Google+, this impact is far more pronounced. Your chances of a reshare in posts that plus mention someone is 7.48 times greater than it is for posts where you don’t plus mention anyone!
Hashtags More Impactful on Google+
Our study on Twitter engagement showed that the engagement benefit of hashtags was pretty moderate, but the study I am publishing today shows a very different story for G+:
Now that Google+ must stand on its own, I believe it will be better off. The whole notion of Google+ being Google never made sense to me as a strategy. Now the platform can focus on being good at what it’s good at doing: being a place where people come to engage in long form discussions. (For much more detail on the announced changes at Google+ and their implications, see “The New Google Plus: Will Tighter Focus Lead to Success?” by Stone Temple’s Mark Traphagen.
You can see that clearly emerge from the factors that appear to drive the most engagement. Plus mentions are a big deal, whereas @mentions don’t work on Twitter. Hashtags matter more on G+. Replies to a Google+ post are 22.7 times more likely than they are to a tweet. And, evidently, the best length for a G+ post is between 500 and 1000 characters.
All in all, generating high levels of engagement on Google+ is about having a discussion oriented mentality.
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