There’s been many articles written about how good, bad and indifferent Google+ is. But our favourite debate is the ongoing It’s Really Popular Vs It’s A Ghost Town one.
So what’s the truth? Our findings and infographic (see below) appear to suggest the latter: despite its large number of accounts, G+ is bottom of the list of social network users’ favoured channels.
Google, of course, claims it is fast-growing and really popular. Why wouldn’t they? And, of course, there is research to support that argument. But does this chart, left, for example, which shows the rise in G+ unique visitors, tell the whole truth?
Let’s face it, you don’t actually have to be a G+ user to view a post on G+. So, there’s every chance that a post uploaded to G+ and then posted on, say, Twitter or Facebook, is being veiwed by hundreds or thousands of people who have never logged in or created a G+ account, nor perhaps never will.
And does this explain why, according to ComScore, G+ users spend just 3.3 minutes per month on the site, compared with 7.5 hours – hours – per month on Facebook? ie is G+ traffic transient, clicking on a link, reading it and moving back to their Facebook/ Twitter stream?
So, we decided to do our own research. It is by no means exhaustive and is only meant as a snapshot view, so judge for yourself.
Google hasn’t released active user stats or levels of engagement, but they have confirmed on their own blog that there are 170m G+ accounts. To put that into context, it puts G+ second behind Facebook (901m: recently updated to 955m) and ahead of LinkedIn (161m) and Twitter (140m) in terms of official user accounts (see links below).
If these official user figures are accurate, you might surmise that levels of activity – such as sharing stories, for example – would mirror user stats ie the more users, the more people sharing content on that network.
We analysed 100 random online entertainment, health, business, technology and general news stories and looked at how many times each story was shared by Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter users.
The stories were taken at random by three staff from Umpf using websites including The Independent, Telegraph, Forbes, CBS News, Evening Standard, Mashable and TechCrunch. The only criteria was that the site had to have a share counter showing all four networks as a minimum.
We then worked out, on an average per user per channel basis, the propensity of a social media user to share a story on either Facebook, G+, LinkedIn or Twitter.
For every 100 million users, the following number were likely to share an online story:
Twitter, 197.3 people were likely to share an online story
Facebook, 41.8 people were likely to share an online story
LinkedIn, 15.2 people were likely to share an online story
Google+, 6.0 people were likely to share an online story
Or, in other words:
LinkedIn is 2.5 times more effective than G+ for sharing
Facebook is 7 times more effective than G+ for sharing
Twitter is 33 times more effective than G+ for sharing
Our infographic visualises the Umpf findings and the full press release is below.
[Source: Umpf Blog]
Some Facebook business Pages lost tens of thousands of fans today, but they shouldn’t fret. Facebook has confirmed with me that it’s currently purging fake accounts and Page Likes as it implements site integrity improvements announced last month. You can see the evidence on Pages like Zynga’s Texas HoldEm Poker whose fan count dropped by 96,000 today after steady after long steady growth.
Illegitimately created accounts are being deleted, and Likes gained from malware, compromised accounts, or deceived users are being removed. So no, everyone doesn’t just hate your Page’s last status update.
Facebook said “On average, less than 1% of Likes on any given Page will be removed” if they’ve abided by its terms and haven’t shadily been buying Likes from hackers. That matches decreases seen on the PageData tracking service from what I’m calling “Operation Unlike”.
Zynga’s Texas HoldEm Poker, one of the longest standing Pages on Facebook and the third most popular, lost 96,000 of its 63 million fans today, though that’s just 0.15%. Other Pages such as South Park, Justin Bieber, and Leo Messi all had five-digit dips but that only accounted for around a 0.03% total loss.
One business owner told us he saw a Page go from 7100 Likes to 5800 in a day, an 18% drop. That’s an extreme, though, and that Page may have been buying spam Likes or tricking users into becoming fans.
Lower but more accurate Like counts actually help Pages. Admins might not be able to tout their Pages’ size the same way, but they’ll be better able to assess what content is resonating with their audiences.
Think of it this way. If a Page had 10,000 fans but 4,000 were fake and it published an update that got 2,500 Likes, it might think only a quarter of its fans were interested in that content. But with an accurate fan count of 6,000, the admin would know nearly half the fans enjoyed that post and that they should post more with a similar vibe.
Meanwhile on the user side of things, the purge of fake accounts means fewer spam friend requests and comments, and a reduced risk of being scammed. Investors will also get a better idea of Facebook’s growth because numbers won’t be inflated by fakes.
Facebook is strapped with a tough problem. Its current sign-up process is quick and easy. That’s great for onboarding real people, but it also makes it simple to set up fake accounts. It could be hard deterring spammers without putting up hurdles for everyone else.
It’s a pressing issue, though, as Facebook is increasingly trying to convince businesses to buy ads that score them Likes. If businesses worry those Likes are fake and won’t result in real views and clicks of their news feed posts and purchases of their product, they might forego a Facebook fan base.
Still, Facebook has come a long way on fighting spam. In made a huge push in 2010 and reduced spam by 95%. Some of that was through smart detection and containment algorithms. However, I’ve also heard there was some awesome counterterrorism powered by humans, where employees tricked bad guys into revealing their best Facebook spamming techniques. Those vulnerabilities were promptly fixed.
Retailers have invested heavily in making money off social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
But despite all the interest, it doesn’t look like social networks do much to drive sales, according to a recent report by Sucharita Mulpuru at Forrester Research.
Less than 1 percent of the online transactions she tracked could be traced to a social media post, Mulpuru wrote in her report.
Paid search traffic is the most effective way for retailers to engage new customers, while email marketing captivates returning customers, Mulpuru wrote.
While social networks keep customers engaged with the brand, they don’t result in any immediate monetary benefit, Mulpuru wrote:
“Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. While the hype around social networks as a
driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the
truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for
either new or repeat buyers. In fact, fewer than 1% of transactions for both new and repeat
shoppers could be traced back to trackable social links.”
Mulpuru didn’t study small businesses, which she said do disproportionately well in social commerce.
Here’s a graph showing how effective email marketing and paid searches are:
[Source: Business Insider]
What about social sources that drive people on ecommerce sites to create conversions? Here’s an infographic from Richrelvance:
In the end, different thoughts and result about offline shopping from Facebook and Datalogix about Facebook Ads conversion. After measuring 45 campaigns over the past year, the companies found that in 70% of cases, every $1 spent on Facebook led to an additional $3 in sales.