Google + versus Facebook: An Experiment

Posted by: in Analytics, Social Media Insights & Trends on July 15, 2011

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve likely read something about Google’s new social offering, Google +. While Google has had a poor track record in the past with social media-based products (hello Dodgeball, Jaiku, Wave and Buzz), this one seems to be gaining some traction. Rather than rehash what it’s about since there are media outlets/bloggers far more eloquent than me that have already done this including Chris Brogan, Mashable and the Wall Street Journal, I want to focus on a personal experiment I started last night.

Will Google + Have Legs?

The Experiment

Fortunately, I have about the same number of followers on Facebook as I do on Google + give or take a couple hundred. This is interesting given the fact that I’ve been on Facebook for five plus years and on Google + for all of 3 weeks.

At approximately 8:00 PM CT last night, I posted a simple question on Facebook and Google + as close to simultaneously as possible. I also made sure that I set my privacy for the post to “public” or “everyone” so that it was visible to as many people as possible. The question was, “What was your first concert.”

Almost immediately, the responses started trickling in. However, what was most interesting was the fact that Google + got off to a big head start almost doubling the number of responses on Facebook. In fact, I received 48 of my 67 responses on Google + within 1 hour of posting to Facebook’s 29 (out of an ultimate 70).

During the process, I had a few people point out that I was receiving a lot more comments on Google + versus Facebook so obviously a few people caught onto what I was trying to do. However, over the course of the next 20 hours, an amazing thing happened. Facebook caught up and ultimately surpassed Google +. And while Google + comments have started to peter out (only a few comments today), Facebook mentions continue to trickle in.

The Outcome

In spite of this little experiment’s lack of statistical significance, I found it telling on a few different fronts. Here is my mini-synopsis of what happened and what it might mean for individuals and businesses using Google + (at least for the short term):

  • There are a lot more early adopters on Google + so while I have the same number of followers on Google + and Facebook, the latter group more closely mimics the general population of the US. As you can imagine, early adopters tend to be more social so I wasn’t surprised to see Google + outstrip Facebook out of the gate. What I found intriguing was how close the comment race was given Google +’s 10 million active users compared to 650 million on Facebook.
  • Google + is new so it’s too early to put “sharing” or edgerank algorithms like Facebook has that determine who sees what in which stream. If you weren’t aware of this, you should be because it’s a huge deal. What this means is that most of what you share on Facebook doesn’t get seen by your full set of friends. If you are a business, chances are that people that have “liked” your page are only seeing a small fraction of what you post to your page. On Google +, this is still virgin territory so as Google opens up their offering to businesses (Ford is one of the few early beta cases), you should think about setting up shop for testing purposes.
  • Because a lot of the talk on Google + right now is about, what else, Google +, my posting of a question that was not about the service itself seemed to resonate well.
  • While I knew most of the people who commented on my Facebook update (that’s partially a factor of my filtering my friends there), I didn’t know a lot of the people that commented on my Google + post.

Does this experiment mean anything? Maybe not. But it does show that by creating engaging content or asking open-ended questions, you can tip the scales in your favor on Facebook. It also demonstrates that people on Google + — at least for the near future — are active and excited to engage with content that is not specifically about Google +. To that end, I’ll be trying more experiments like this in the future to test out the effectiveness of and differences between Google + and Facebook.

Note, if you do want me personal thoughts on Google +, I shared them on yesterday’s Quick’n’Dirty podcast along with guest co-host, Jim Storer.


By: Aaron Strout

Aaron is the President of WCG, one of the three agencies under the W2O Group umbrella. He is a regular contributor to Marketing Land and a co-host of video podcast, Live from Stubbs.

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4 Responses

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  1. Totally something I would do. I came up with the 4 tweets per account on average per day by counting my stream for days as I followed more and more accounts. My guess is your Facebook post stayed towards the top of the filter for quite a few people you know while G+ just got buried. You either saw it now or rest in peace.

  2. Aaron, thanks for running the Google+ / Facebook experiment and sharing your early hunches as to the experience.

    I especially found your commentary of interest about the welcoming response on Google+ may be partly correlated to fact your post was not ABOUT Google+ 😉

    I’m collecting a list of Google+ “how to’s” and shortcuts so also appreciated the few you referenced.

Continuing the Discussion

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