Google unhappy with report on Google+ user engagement

16 May 2012

Graph shows lengthy delays between public posts (Source: RJ Metrics)

Google has challenged a report from RJ Metrics showing that Google+ user engagement is weaker than its counterparts, but a lack of transparency with user data leaves its claims unfounded.

Business intelligence software provider RJ Metrics analysed posts from 40,000 Google+ users selected at random. Using only information that was publicly available, these users’ timelines were downloaded in order to research Google+ user engagement.

Though this data is not a complete reflection of the Google+ populace, as private data could provide far more insight, it still gives a worthwhile glimpse into user behaviour on the social network.

Out of the 40,000 accounts selected for review, only one-third of those users selected had any public activity, so the study mainly focused on them.

Lengthy breaks between public posts

Usually, users that have gotten over their first few posts to a social network are more than 90pc likely to return for more – it’s the Pringles-tested ‘once you pop you can’t stop’ mentality. However, with Google+, 30pc of users never made a second public post and, even after about five consecutive posts, the likelihood of sending out another public post doesn’t pass the 90pc mark but falters at 85pc.

A cohort analysis based on user sign-up dates further elaborates on this showing that, even after a few months, users are less and less likely to make additional posts with each passing month – a trend that is consistent even with newer sign-ups.

It seems, also, that Google+ users aren’t as consistent as Facebook and Twitter users, leaving, on average, 12 days between posts. While plenty of these users may be creating private posts in the interim, this figure still shows a lengthy break between public posts.

Each post gets less than one +1, reply and share

RJ Metrics also analysed 70,000 public posts for +1s, replies and sharing among users and the findings are revealing. On average, a single post receives just 0.77 +1s, 0.54 replies, and 0.17 shares.

In this case, reliance on publicly available data can’t be faulted, as everyone in a user’s circle would be able to view, comment on, share and +1 a public post, and this would have been picked up by the analysis.

This low level of engagement among users fits neatly with statistics from ComScore reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this year, which focused on time spent on the major social networks.

While the average Facebook user spent 405 minutes on the site in January, Google+ users clocked up just three minutes in that month. The ailing social network was even beaten by almost-forgotten MySpace, which measured 8 minutes.

Wall Street Journal - ComScore statistics

Google claims study is flawed and inaccurate

In a statement to Fast Company, a Google spokesperson claimed the RJ Metrics study was a flawed and inaccurate representation of all the sharing and activity taking place on Google+. “As we’ve said before, more sharing occurs privately to Circles and individuals than publicly on Google+. The beauty of Google+ is that it allows you to share privately – you don’t have to publicly share your thoughts, photos or videos with the world,” the representative said.

Though Google+ claims a large user base of more than 100m users, many analysts believe these figures are skewed by the social network’s integration across almost all Google products. Thus far, Google has refused to reveal its monthly active users on Google+, and, until they do, they will just have to accept the criticism coming from the available information.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.