Who's more engaged? A Facebook and Google+ case study

Seen this article by Farhad Manjoo? It was recently published on Slate and it alleges that Google+ is already on its way out. I was skeptical for a number of reasons and then realized I actually had the data at hand to prove G+ audiences are more engaged than Facebook audiences--by a lot!


Though the audience is smaller, Google+'s user base is consistently more engaged with content posted to it, being nearly 3 times more likely to watch a video and 50% more likely to leave a comment on said video posting.


Being a regular video blogger, I hopped onto YouTube and took a sample of the last six videos I had really good numbers for: Tech Blogs 200-204, plus my 2011-2012 promo video. I took numbers for the full lifespan of the video--not the current week or even the first week for any of them. Under Discovery, this data is usually found under either "No link referrer - embedded player" or "External website". G+ is very consistent in how its recorded: appearing under the address plus.google.com in the embedded player option. Facebook is a little tricker, so I counted any hit that had facebook in the url whatsover to count for FB itself. This included m.facebook.com and a number of bizarrely coded URLs I still don't quite understand.

To measure what section of my audience may have viewed these videos, I counted my total followers on G+ (and yes, this probably includes people who have followed me recently and couldn't have viewed my videos, but stick with me because the same proviso applies to Facebook) and took both the total number of friends I currently have listed on Facebook as well as those fans on my fanpage whom FB says have not friended me directly as my total audience. This latter point is actually probably lowballing my audience on FB some given that I regularly post to the Tech Poi Group, but given Facebook didn't offer me an easy way to figure how how many of the roughly 1,200 people there are on the group are my friends, that's going to have to remain a proviso for now.

I also counted up the total number of comments posted on each video on their respective social networking sites and the number of reshares. I've decided not to include the reshare data because it was so small as to be nearly irrelevant and if I wasn't tagged in the post or the video reshared directly from my own posting, it's impossible for me to know it was reposted. In other words: I just can't get accurate enough data to be comfortable sharing it.


The biggest one is clearly that given what a niche field I'm in, my audience is not huge. Using the method outlined above, my total audience on Facebook is around 1,922 people. On Google+, it's only 272. Now, that said, even with such a small sample size there are tremendous differences in engagement level that do become immediately apparent. I'm also including my audience size on the day I collected my numbers because I don't know of a way to go back and check how many people were my friends or following me on each individual date--so in the grand scheme of things the data is just going to be as tough on each social networking site as I can make it. I also for grins included hits to a written blog I'd posted--"The Talent Trap," but the traffic to it blew the curve so bad on both sites that I've decided not to include it in my final numbers. To say nothing of the fact that I had only the one written blog entry to work off of.


Available in this here Google Spreadsheet. Yes, the data's kind of pithy. I work with what I've got.


Here's where it gets fun :) Below is a chart of the hits I got from both Facebook at Google+ for my last six videos. As you can see, Facebook continually edges out G+ by margin that averages out to around twice the hits coming from Facebook. In terms of total hits, Facebook is the winner, but think for a second on the fact that I get twice the hits from a social networking site where I have seven times the audience.

That brings me to chart number two: the average rate of consumption of my audience on each site. I determined this by dividing the number of viewers by the size of the total audience on each site and I got a really different picture:

Google+ is now the consistent winner. On average, G+ users are 2.95 (can we just round it up to 3?) times more likely to watch a video that I post on that site. What's more, the difference in engagement level seems to be relatively consistent across the videos I've posted here, with Tech blogs 202 and 204 being the only two that don't show a dramatically more engaged G+ audience.

This is, of course, only one measure of engagement. Another is comments left on videos. I regret that my data here is paltry as well, but I'll do what I can with it. In this case there are no comments on a majority of the videos, but those that do likewise show a striking difference in engagement levels. First, the raw numbers of comments on each site:

Once again, Facebook wins on total comments alone and this time it's by a regular margin of 3:1. But that engagement is spread out across the same audience. Let's divide the number of comments by the total audience once again and see what the results are:

Wow...in those cases where G+ users do comment, it's once again in numbers nearly twice as great as those on Facebook. Even with the videos that nobody commented on included, users on G+ are 1.5 times more likely to comment on a video.


Given the incredibly high rate of interaction, I think it's safe to say I'll continue to apply as much attention to publishing my work on G+ as I do with Facebook as time goes on. I still get more overall traffic from Facebook, but given the size of my audience and the size of its userbase it'd frankly be stupefying if I didn't. It's entirely possible that as G+ grows, the userbase will become less engaged overall, but for the time being there's a good window of opportunity for web content producers to have a ready-made and incredibly engaged audience by plugging into G+.

Now, all that said--I clearly have a very small audience compared to most bloggers and other content producers. Is my experience the norm? Great question--and here's where I add my challenge to other content producers out there. Conduct this study yourselves and see if your data corroborates mine. Is there something unique to the poi world that generates these numbers? Does written material behave differently than video material? (in my study, yes, but remember I had only the one written blog to work with) If you run your own numbers, shoot me wherever you post them and let's compare notes.

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