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.
To share this video, click the three-dots icon at upper right on the video preview image.
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 Perficient Digital’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.
Did you benefit from this study? We have tons more! See all our big data social media and SEO studies here.
Eric Enge leads the Digital Marketing practice for Perficient Digital. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO. Learn More About Eric Enge