Facebook vs. Google Plus Engagement – You Had No Idea How Bad It Is For … ! [infographic]

Facebook vs. Google Plus

Facebook vs. Google Plus Engagement – You Had No Idea How Bad It Is For … ! [infographic]

By Ralf Skirr.

There's a time a man must face the TRUTH! I liked Google plus better than Facebook. I called myself a Google Plus Ambassador. Then I looked at the numbers!

Most business owners and marketers still haven't joined Google plus.

  • If you haven't joined g+, you're probably wondering whether it's worth the additional time.
  • If you have joined g+, you're probably wondering whether it's worth the additional time. Oh.

Here's the story: Every time someone calls Google plus a 'ghost town' I get defensive and explain how great Google plus is. I tell them how everybody is getting Google wrong. Just like many fellow Google plus users with me.

  • We've dissed Journalists who were writing about low Google plus engagement.
  • We've suspected them of getting paid by Facebook.
  • We bombarded the wall of g+ critics with malicious comments.

Hey, at least there's some engagement! 

If you want to get slapped, go and send a message out saying 'Google plus is a ghost town,' or 'Engagement on Google plus is unbelievably low.'

Then, a few weeks back, I started to lookout for Google plus content that Plussers posted to their Facebook wall as well. And I looked at how many likes, comments, and shares they get on both platforms.

Then I looked at how many followers they have. And I crunched the numbers, with surprising results.

Here are 3 examples for prominent social networkers and how their fans engage on Facebook and Google plus.

  1. With Mari Smith's numbers you may still think 'so what?' 
  2. When you see Robert Scoble's numbers you'll be surprised.
  3. When you see Guy Kawasaki's numbers, you'll be in tears (if you're a Google plus evangelist) or rolling on the floor laughing (if you're a Facebook fan, or Mark Zuckerberg).

The numbers below are for a specific post that was posted to Google plus and to Facebook on the same day. The numbers were taken a few days after the post, when activity had died.

Infographic: Mari Smith, user engagement on Google plus and Facebook compared.

(Sorry for the excessive ibmm branding, I pulled 9 separate graphics together on this page.)

Mari's numbers are interesting, because she has roughly the same number of subscribers on both social media sites. It must be said, though, that the post on Facebook was posted to her Fan Page, not to her personal profile. Mari Smith has many more subscribers on her profile.

But I needed to compare numbers for the same content on g+ and Facebook, and this piece was posted to the fan page.

This is the post for which I compared the numbers:

Here's Mari Smith's Facebook Fan Page:

Infographic: Robert Scoble, user engagement on Google plus and Facebook compared.

Robert's results for this post vary more than Mari's. For likes this post's results are much worse, for shares the results are better. This is pretty rare, though.

While Mari Smith has similar audience size (remember, it's only her Facebook Page), in Robert's sample the g+ audience is much larger.

Many people say that larger following will result in less engagement.

Robert Scoble's Google plus post:

And Robert's Facebook profile:

Infographic: Guy Kawasaki, user engagement on Google plus and Facebook compared.

Did I check the wrong post? Is it an outlier?

These numbers are so extreme that I wanted to make sure I didn't catch an outlier. I checked with CircleCount. The results above are in line with Guy's average results over the last 30 days. Average is 28 comments per posting, 19 reshares per posting, and 66 +1's per posting; with currently 1,912,115 followers.

Guy Kawasaki's numbers are way off, in two ways.

  1. Compared to Facebook, the engagement numbers are unbelievably low on Google plus.
  2. Looking at the posts of Mari and Guy on Facebook, his engagement numbers are also way down, compared to Mari.

Why is that so?

I believe the reason is that Mari mostly posts within a small range of topics. Mari is all about social media and Facebook.

Guy, on the other hand, is famous for doing the opposite. He loves finding interesting stuff across ALL TOPics.

Robert Scoble is somewhere inbetween. He's all about tech startups, gadgets, and a pint of Rackspace. His posts are broader than Mari's, but not as broad as Guy's.

Look at the topics from Guy's last 10 g+ posts today:

  1. Marshmallow Twig Roaster
  2. Graduation Speeches
  3. Yahoo CEO Resume Revelations
  4. Origami
  5. His Google plus book, What the Plus!
  6. A Mother's Day gift for a hockey mom
  7. Apple Inc.
  8. May Day celebrations and protests 
  9. A funny pic about Silicon Valley Nerds
  10. A cop pulling over a doughnut truck

People love Guy Kawasaki for the new, funny, and interesting things he finds every day.

Yet, it seems to decrease engagement massively.


Guy's Google plus post:

And Guy Kawasaki's Facebook profile:

The hidden metrics and the ROI of social media marketing.

Likes, comments, and shares are easy to count. They don't help us pay the rent, though. Or the Ferrari. *wink @ Mari* At least not in a way we can measure easily.

From a sales and marketing perspective the most important metric is 'click-throughs.' Clicks to our promotions, clicks to our sites. More click-throughs = more conversions and higher ad revenue.

I don't know the click-throughs for Mari, Robert, and Guy. It might well be that engagement on g+ is low, but the click throughs from up to 2 million followers are high enough!

Conclusions about engagement on Google plus compared to Facebook. 

Keep in mind that I'm using 3 randomly picked posts to illustrate my ideas. This is not 'proof' for anything, further study is necessary.

1. Engagement is significantly lower on Google plus. This is a biggie, although Google plus users frequently deny it. Your day has only 24 hours. There are unlimited marketing opportunities out there. You have to evaluate if Google plus is really worth your time.

Chris Brogan has spoken open words in his session at Social Media Success Summit 2012 two days ago. Slightly paraphrasing: "I don't think it's critical to have a Google plus business page. You're not going to have a lot interaction." He recommended that if you engage on Google plus you rather use your personal profile than a business page.

The engagement analyzed in this blog post is from personal profiles. If you did the same analysis for pages, you'd quickly close the book on Google plus and move on to Facebook and LinkedIn.

2. Building a larger audience often results in lower engagement. On any platform. The larger your audience is, the less targeted it is. The more targeted your audience is, the more successful any campaign will be. You don't need to target all the 2 Billion people who have internet. You'll have less work and better results the smaller and more targeted your audience is.

3. If you restrict your posts to a tightly defined topic, you'll get higher engagement. This, too, is about targeted social media marketing. Posting across many different topics will give you lower engagement. Cats and bacon are the exception to the rule.

I'm neither criticizing any of these authors, nor saying bye bye to Google plus. I DO like g+ better. I AM a g+ Ambassador. But Google plus users must stop treating every critic like an idiot or a propagandist paid by Facebook.

Engagement is significantly lower on Google plus, even for celebrities. And for the little guy, like me, and probably you, at g+ there's a lot of time and work needed to get even a tiny bit of response.

I do believe, though, that Google plus will be a success, and I'll cover the 'Why' in a separate post. 

Let me finish with a quote from Guy Kawasaki that I picked up today:

"Get on Google plus! Stake your claim! Before it becomes 'downtown Manhattan.' Look at it as investment in the future."




Category: Social Media For Business | Tags: , , , , , ,


Leave a comment
  1. Jo Ann Kairys May 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    This is a fantastic article. I like that you are careful to point out potential shortcomings of the comparison (like a good epidemiologist!), but the facts are compelling as are your personal perspectives. Thanks for crunching the numbers – great stuff!

  2. Ralf Skirr May 4, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    Thanks for your nice words, Jo Ann, much appreciated. I googled 'epidemiologist.'  Now I'm going to do an 'outbreak investigation' on how Guy got followed by 2 million people! ;-)

  3. Terry Babij May 5, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Thank you Ralf for this thoughtful mind stimulating post. You put some hard and fast numbers to the G+ space. The engagement numbers are a good measure of interaction. Wasn’t the old rule of thumb 1%? These figures decmate that rule. If I am a small brand with limited reach why even look at Social Media space if I need to attract 1,000’s of fans to hope for 1-2 comments or hares?

    Is the goal of brands personal and corp to strive for massive followings to generate engagement or fine tuned followings tailored to their needs?

    I came from an industry that knew little about Social Media and still thought there was something there and do not invest too much because you cannot measure however it may be the right thing to do.

    Your examples are large personal brands with some engagement. You studied down to the post level would a implement ratio subscribers, fans to “talking about” on FB be as close?

    A closing thought on Google Plus. For business the benefit can still be the added Google Juice from having the +1 engagement and higher search results. Flipping the thought might be, will Google hurt its image if it gives higher results for G+ engagement and not looking at other spaces?

    • Ralf Skirr May 5, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      Thanks for your reply, Terry. Those are great questions, and they stimulate a lot of new thoughts on this topic. I will pick them up for a new blog post about the goals and usefulness of social media, especially for small business.

  4. Carl Meibergen May 5, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Ralf, as always very thought provoking – and coming from a background in educational research I love the data mining.  
    With those skills you must love fantasy baseball (said with a smile on my face)

  5. Joel Cheuoua May 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    Great article, very interesting and insightful, however it seems mostly centered on the idea that social networking tools "work" when they produce value for marketers or celebrities (i.e. audience and engagement).
    Granted that this is one big factor of the success of these tools (ask twitter…), I think we tend to forget too quickly the original – and difficult – problems and reasons they are supposed to be out there for: namely how do you make it easier for people to connect with friends, familly and peers so they can to actively, easily and collectively solve problems, get merry or simply chat and support each other.
    Until we get back to these fundementals, most of the "new kids on the block" like Google+ and even Pinterest a while ago (I followed them closely when they sarted years ago) will be railed as a failure because they quite simply won't' have the same critical mass or interest that'll make the marketers and social media wonks go bananas … but that it's not a bad thing in my book.

    • Ralf Skirr May 16, 2012 at 9:23 am #

      Hi Joel. Thanks for your comment. You wrote: “it seems mostly centered on the idea that social networking tools “work” when they produce value for marketers or celebrities”

      The marketing aspect is not my focus in THIS post. It’s centered around the idea that everyone who posts something wants to get a conversation about it in some form. Even if you post for hobby, why would you keep doing it if no one cares?

      Or, in other words, when I write a piece of content and it gets me 3 times as much feedback on Facebook compared to Google plus, why in the world would I go to g+ instead of sticking with Facebook? Especially when I’m not a marketer!

      As a marketer I may find many reasons to post my stuff even when no one engages. But when posting for hobby, I want to have conversations.

      The marketers have systems in place to post every piece of content, crap or not, everywhere. I see many Google plus accounts from marketers with daily posts and ZERO interaction for months. Maybe that’s fine for them because they are just there for dropping links.

      But a ‘normal’ person wouldn’t be interested in doing that. They like a platform where they can engage and have conversations.

      At this time it takes a lot of work to get that on Google plus!

  6. Michael Neuendorff May 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    Ralf, Yes, this is anecdotal information that bears further research to draw definitive concusions. However, I've not found ANY anecdotal information that would suggest otherwise than your findings here. So, it may be circumstantial, but it sure smacks of the truth. 
    I'm especially hip to your comment about a marketer having only 24 hours in a day. One must go for ROI on time invested and G+ looks like a Savings Bond at present. Little cost, little present value.
    Thank you for sharing this work. It's valuable and interesting.

  7. John May 16, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    With Facebook going public the investment community is going to start weighing in on Facebook. Google is a known entity in the investment world. We will see in the not too distant future if Facebook is a hit or not!

  8. Tad Chef May 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Great comparison! I miss some aspects though. It seems to me that people on Facebook engage ina "quick and dirty" way while on Google+ people lead real debates. I bet the average comment length is higher on Google+ than it is on Facebook.

    Also people discuss addressing other commenters on Google+ while on Facebook everybody is commenting on the original post. It may just be me but I'd like to see the numbers compared.

    Also on Facebook most people engage with real life friends while on Google+ you also more likely to converse with strangers.

    I might err of course, that's just my subjective impression.
    Hmmm, my spell check doesn't work inside your form.

    • Ralf Skirr May 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

      Tadeusz, agreed on all points! Just found this today on g+, it illustrates the difference perfectly! (Lol, we plussers are a bit elitist, aren’t we?)

      Most Talked About People On Social Networks

      Most talked about on Facebook, Twitter, Google Pls. Funny pic.


      • Felice Linder April 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

        For me, comparing Facebook and Google+ is somewhat like apples to oranges. They are both fruits, but I eat them for different reasons. Facebook is for keeping up with friends. Google+ is for keeping informed. There is a place for both from a user perspective and marketers will figure out how to make the most of each. After all, Duck Dynasty and Downton Abbey have financial support.

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