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Google+, Day 24: A More Engaging Social Network?

30 Days With Google+: Day 24

Google+ has many unique aspects and features that set it apart (at least for now) from competing social networks. Where the rubber meets the road, though, a social network is all about being social, so the question boils down to whether or not Google+ fosters a more social environment than its rivals.

I have done a few posts over the past few days across all three of my social networks: Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. It is interesting to look at what sort of response each received, and how the different platforms facilitate (or not) ongoing discussion on the subject.

Google+ vs. Facebook vs. Twitter

First, let's put the size of the different audiences in some perspective. On Google+ there are just over 900 people who have me in Circles. On Facebook I have about 500 'Friends'. I have just over 16,000 followers on Twitter.

All else being equal, I guess I should expect to have the least interaction and engagement on Google+, with about twice as much on Facebook, and roughly 16 times more response on Twitter. The reality doesn't play out in such a linear fashion, though.

I posted a simple poll across all three asking people to choose their favorite cartoon among Rugrats, Fairly OddParents, and Phineas and Ferb (I was looking for cartoons that kids love, but that are also entertaining on some level for adults).

Facebook was an utter fail. I posted it to my personal Facebook profile instead of my Facebook page, so the audience was only 500 instead of the 2,000 on my Facebook Page. I got zero response. Nada.

On Twitter, I received eleven responses that I know of. My only means of measuring is who replied to the tweet in such a way that I was '@' mentioned in it. Twitter casts the biggest net--broadcasting to 16,000 plus and anyone else who might search for terms found in my tweet, but it is not very engaging in terms of a debate or discussion. The 16,000 people following me don't necessarily see any of the responses, so there is limited opportunity for any ongoing conversation.

The response on Google+ was the best. The question itself was +1'd twice, and there are 18 comments to the post. More importantly, though, the comments are not just to me. There is also interaction between different people who--as far as I know--don't even know each other based off of the comments. In other words, there was an actual conversation that took place on Google+ compared to silence on Facebook, and one-liner responses on Twitter.

I followed up the cartoon poll with a political statement. On Facebook the comment got "Liked" three times, and received three comments--a back and forth dialog between two of my friends who otherwise don't know each other. On Twitter, it got retweeted three times with one back and forth between myself and one of the retweeters.

Then we have Google+. On Google+ the comment was +1'd 17 times, and there were 43 comments. The debate went on among myself and eight other individuals, and included discussion between commenters, and shared links pointing to other resources. All in all, I would have to say that Google+ won that battle of social network engagement as well.

Today, I tried one more time. This time I decided to talk about breakfast cereals and ask people to choose their favorite (I voted for Lucky Charms). I expanded my audience on Facebook to include both my personal Facebook social network, and my Facebook Page which lets people who aren't in my network follow my posts as well. The combination of personal and public personas on Facebook is a more apples to apples comparison to the mix of people that see my posts on Google+, and brings the total Facebook audience up to around 2,500.

The cereal query only got two responses on Twitter. Opening up the audience, however, had a dramatic effect for Facebook. The post got four responses from my personal social network, and another 13 from people on the Facebook Page--including some "Liked" comments. Meanwhile, Google+ is a little behind on this one with only 9 comments so far.

Putting Results in Perspective

The problem right now is that the level of engagement is artificial. Either way you look at it--whether engagement is unusually low or unusually high--can be blamed on the fact that Google+ is a limited "Field Trial" that is not available to the general public.

My experience indicates that there is more interaction than Facebook, and more opportunity for meaningful dialog than Twitter. However, the audience on Google+ right now is an audience that is made up primarily of tech geeks who are on Google+ specifically to engage and see what it is all about. Check back three years from now when the novelty has worn off and it is just another mundane way of sharing information with a group of people.

Conversely, there are many who report that Google+ feels like a ghost town. But, Google+ is an invitation-only environment with only 25 million or so users, while Facebook has 750 million plus, and Twitter boasts 300 million or so. It is hard to be social on a social network where only a fraction of the family, friends, co-workers, and others you normally share with are even available.

The bottom line is that the verdict is still out, and it will be out for quite a while. It seems, based on my experience so far that Google+ is, in fact, a more engaging and social network, but only time will tell.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With the iPad

Day 23: Tying Google+ In With the Rest of Google

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