Google+ Part II: If it’s a ghost town, why is there so much noise?

We’ve all heard it, before: “Don’t bother with Google+, it’s a ghost town,” “No one uses it, why should we spend time on there?” And this is the advice given by so called “social media professionals” and “experts.” It’s sad because given their “expert” and “guru” status, they really don’t know anything about one of the fastest growing social networks.  All they know is that “it’s great for SEO purposes” so they simply repurpose Facebook posts onto Google+ without actually knowing how the SEO benefits actually work.

In an effort to shed some light on how to properly use the platform, we conducted a small experiment to illustrate how busy the social network actually is. As stated in Part I of the Google+ series, engagement is the key to SEO benefits, so we followed the advice of thought leaders like Mark Traphagen, and increased our +1 count from 101 to 188, and our follower count from 38 to 55 in 5 days.

How We Did It

With the use of the free analytics platform SumAll, we kept track of the before and after effects of our efforts. Here is what our engagement looked like before implementing specific engagement tactics:

Google+ before engagement

The blue line indicates our followers, the purple line indicates our publishing activity which is all the content we share and reshare, and the orange line indicates our advocacy activity which is the +1’s, comments, and shares we get on our content.

As you can see, there was little to no activity. Now, look at the graph after implementing specific engagement tactics:

Google+ after engagement

Clearly there is a marked difference between the two graphs. Here’s what we did:

  • Posted quality content to communities related to social media (~2-3/day; this tactic had the most direct effect on overall advocacy).
  • Re-shared posts from other users (3-5/day).
  • Constructed quality comments on discussion topics within communities (~5/day).

 

Conclusions

The large dip that you see in the middle was due to us not engaging at all to see if the relationship between publishing and advocacy activity was more correlative than causative. We came to the conclusion that publishing activity and advocacy activity are indeed causative, thus boosting followers due to higher engagement. BUT! This does not mean you should spam! This simply means that the sole activity of publishing content will drive engagement. Spamming will certainly lose you followers and get you banned from communities.

However, we also noticed that the type of content posted might play a factor in terms of advocacy.  Anytime we posted a piece of content and wrote an explanatory post accompanying it, we seemed to get higher engagement – in other words treating Google+ almost like a “mini-blog.”

To improve engagement, we also found that participation in communities is key because that’s where all the people are conversing. Whenever we just posted content to our page, we didn’t get much engagement, but posting to communities put a lot more eyeballs on our content, leading to shares and +1’s. Just take note that most communities are heavily moderated and you will be punished for ruthless self-promotion and nonsense. Remember, the goal is to share quality content. Engagement is just a consequence of doing so.

We are starting to see that Google+ is truly a content driven platform that’s fueled by the people and their engagement, even more so than Facebook or Twitter.  We will continue to use these tactics while employing others such as mini-blog post style content, and utilizing Ripples.  We predict our follower count to increase exponentially due to the additional engagement tactics we will employ.  Be sure to follow us on Google+ and track our progress!


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