Research and Studies

Maximizing Engagement on Google Plus

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.
Photos get high engagement on google plus
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.
Images have a powerful effect on Google+ engagement

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.
Mentions increase engagement on Google+
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:
Hashtags increase engagement on Google+
The impact on +1s and Reshares is quite dramatic, but there appears to be little impact on the chances of getting a reply.
Google+ posts with hashtags get twice as many +1's.

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:
Sharing Videos reduces engagement on Google+
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:
YouTube shared videos get minimal engagement on Google+
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
Posts between 500 and 1000 characters get the most engagement across the board.
Google+ posts between 500-1000 characters get the most engagement.

Maximizing Engagement on Google+ Summary

The following table contains a summary of the data for all the post attributes we examined:
Summary of Engagement Data on Google+
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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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+:
Google+ generates far more replies than Twitter
Study shows Google+ posts 22x more likely than tweets to get replies.
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+:
Hashtags have more impact on Google+ than Twitter


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.

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Thoughts on “Maximizing Engagement on Google Plus”

  1. Thats one benefit of using GooglePlus, it always bring traffics, I structured my blog in such a way to my post are automatically shared on GooglePlus

  2. Thanks for that great study Eric; it’s quite revealing. Yes, Google+ seems to be less a “social” platform and more a “sharing” platform around interests, whether hobbies or professional. More like a club than a pub! Interesting about the +mention finding; perhaps it indicates friendliness and approachability, leading to approval through +1s and reshares. For example, I think G+ is a platform where people from any background can actually have conversations with experts and celebrities. G+ makes them seem more “human” – this is very important for many users.

  3. Surprising fact, videos not working on Google Plus. Rest of them are more or less general. I see Google Plus as trust and authority building platform which additionally helps everyone on organic ranking too. G+ mentions are really powerful and +1s are huge boost for your engagements as well as ranking. I love and trust Google Plus more than any other social platforms, because it always helped me in every aspects of my education and training business.
    Thanks for sharing these tips and data.
    Sonia Pitt

  4. Great study again, guys! This is really solid information and a bit surprising – specifically the videos. It is good to have information and analysis to back up a hunch. I always figured Photos and Hashtags received more engagement and your data backs this up.
    Sharing this on Twitter now……and Google+ 🙂

  5. I was surprised that sharing a video decreases engagement. Maybe if G+ wasn’t lagging behind in the moving video game. I feel like personally, previewed videos on FB have if anything, significantly increased my engagement/attention levels…
    just my 2 ¢

  6. Matt, we don’t have a definitive explanation either, but it could be that on Google+ people simply consume videos but don’t necessarily comment or reshare them. Also, keep in mind that until recently, a lot of the videos on Google+ were only there because they were autoposted there when the user commented on a video on youtube.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. 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.

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