Showing posts with label Adoption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adoption. Show all posts

Monday, July 22, 2013

The REAL Data on Facebook vs. Google+ (and Other Social Networks)—an Interactive Infographic

Perhaps no question is more debated in social media circles (pun intended) than Google+'s success or lack thereof. Some say G+ is growing and thriving, while others describe it as a "ghost town." I went digging for recent, objective, third-party information and found data from Pew Research, Gigya, ComScore, Nielsen and others. The story this data tells is that Google+ may not have tumbleweeds rolling through it, but the social network is a long, long way from competing with Twitter and Facebook (or even Pinterest and Tumblr) for time, attention and engagement. What follows is a summary and analysis of the data along with an interactive infographic.

From the moment G+ launched, some social media "experts" immediately began to push Google's social network as a "Facebook killer." Early blog posts included charts comparing Google+'s near-vertical growth to that of other social networks, but these aggrandizing posts and diagrams ignored that Google was merely adding G+ into its huge existing user base while Facebook and Twitter had to fight for each new user one at a time.

Since that time, the hype has continued. In some cases, the headlines were caused by the fact Google has played fast and loose with its own figures. Because Google has merged Gmail, search and other parts of its platform, it has been difficult to compare Google's announced data to the information shared by other social networks.

At other times, the people writing articles simply do not understand the figures they are reporting. In the past two months, there have been a raft of stories about how Google+ is now bigger than Twitter, but this is based on the number of account holders and not on activity or usage. If number of account holders were what mattered, then MySpace would still trump Google+.

But I think there is something more at work here than simply inflated and misunderstood data--I believe there is a reason why so many folks are quick to jump on any news story that suggests Google+ (or any other social network other than Facebook) is succeeding. The fact is that many marketers and social media professionals are tired of Facebook. Low brand engagement, the uselessness of large fan bases and the gaming of Facebook EdgeRank have left many marketing and communication pros weary of Facebook. (Of course, customer care professionals feel differently, but that is a topic for a different blog post.)

Moreover, consultants and agencies are finding it is more difficult to sell clients on services for Facebook, which is relatively mature at this point. This is why so many social media professionals are today promoting Tumblr, Vine, Instagram and Pinterest (regardless of whether these platforms are proving appropriate or successful for their clients' particular verticals).

People employed in social media seem desperate for something else to come along and shake up the industry, but look at the data--the real, objective data--and it is hard to escape Facebook's continued domination of the social networking space. Take, for example, the oft reported claim that teens are dumping Facebook. Everyone seems to have an anecdote about their own child or some qualitative data about teen attitudes, but look at Pew's data and it tells a different story. From 2011 to 2012, the percentage of teens using Facebook grew. Sure, it increased by just one percentage point, but it is hard to earn increases for services and tools that are approaching complete saturation--94% of teens said they used Facebook at the end of 2012.

As for G+, there have recently been some contradictory figures on the adoption of the social network. GlobalWebIndex claimed more than a quarter of consumers use G+ while Pew Research Center did not even include G+ in its report of US social media usage. The reason Pew omitted Google's social network is that they found consumers were unable to distinguish G+ from other Google services. Consumers are so confused as to what constitutes usage of G+, Pew decided to completely omit it from their report (which has to call into question every other study on self-reported Google+ usage, don't you think?)

You could overlook Pew's decision to bypass measuring Google+ usage if, in fact, there was strong evidence that G+ was actually seeing substantial adoption; however, the third-party data tells a pretty consistent and convincing story about consumer use of G+:
My goal is not to convince companies or people they should ignore Google+. As always, firms should evaluate their audiences and make smart decisions about where to engage; in addition, we all recognize G+ can be an important tool in enhancing a company's search engine relevance. That said, I strongly believe we should evaluate the social networking space based on actual, objective and accurate data, not hype and misanalysis. By all means, go ahead and embrace Google+ for your firm's (or personal) social networking; just do it with your eyes open and your expectations set appropriately. 

Below is an infographic with all of the pertinent and objective data I could find from late 2012 to the present. I created it using a new tool, This free tool is in beta, and as you can tell, it does a nice job of creating interactive infographics.  It is somewhat kludgy to use and is missing some important features (such as the ability to copy charts or retain color choices when changes are made), but it is in beta and shows a lot of promise. You can check out the interactive version of this infographic or create your own infographic  at

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Five Reasons to Trust Your Mom and Not A Social Media Pro About Google+

As I've observed the hard sell for Google+ among social media professionals, I'm struck with how ill equipped the "experts" may be to evaluate new social media tools and to predict how they will spread into the masses. The problem is that the motivations, needs, wants, goals and experiences of social media pros are vastly different from a typical consumer--your mom, for example. As it turns out, the old adage is correct even in social media: Mother knows best.

To be sure, your mother's adoption of a social media tool is likely a lagging indicator; if you wait for most mothers to use a new social media site before you give it consideration, you'll probably already have missed a trend. However, when evaluating new tools, it's vital to focus on your mother's needs rather than the needs of early-adopting, big-name, influence-exerting, social media evangelists. What matters isn't that I, Jeremiah Owyang, or Chris Brogan love Google+ but whether G+ satisfies fundamental needs that your mom has.

Google+ is here to stay; in fact, I shared with my social media team at USAA that I expect before the end of the year we will be maintaining a presence and monitoring member needs on Google+, just as we do on Twitter and Facebook. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean I believe Google+ is poised to go mainstream as quickly as some are predicting.

Charts like this aren't inaccurate, just wildly misleading.
If you listen to some social media experts, you'd think Facebook and Twitter have one foot in the grave and are as old and tired as newspapers and telegrams. I've been dismayed, for example, that some social media pros are hyping wildly misleading charts that convey how Google+ is growing exponentially faster than Facebook or Twitter. Yes, Google has amassed a lot of users--it is, after all, the most visited site on the Internet--but if registered users are what matters, then MySpace's 180 million members still make it a major force in social media.

It isn't users that matter but usage, and there Google+'s early stats aren't nearly as impressive. Experian Hitwise noted that both traffic and users' average time dropped from one week to the next; a Bloomberg/YouGov study indicated Google+ could sign up fewer people in the next year than it did in its first six weeks;
Experian Hitwise notes that "Colleges & Cafes" are
decreasing on G+ while "Kids & Cabernet" are rising.
and Experian Hitwise recently noted Google+ is already dropping among the youthful "Colleges and cafes" cohort, a group considered innovators. Says Experian Hitwise, "It's not uncommon for innovators to trial new services online and in some cases abandon those services when they lose interest." Innovators losing interest doesn't sound like a recipe for rapid mass adoption.

My expectation is that Google+ will be rapidly embraced within certain circles (no G+ pun intended) but it still doesn't meet my "mom test" for mass adoption. While social media pros have been quick to promote the wonders of Google+, I believe they are failing to remove their own biases from their evaluation. Here are five reasons social media professionals may be forgetting their moms in their rush to recommend Google+:

  1. Social media professionals love the new; moms do not: Social media pros never meet a new site or tool that they don't love; their race to (and in some cases away from) Wave, Sidewiki, Digg, Izea, Triiibes, Hashable, Instagram, Quora, Flipbook and the like has been dizzying. Your mom is different--she simply isn't as interested in the new. She doesn't want to learn sparks, streams, circles and hangouts, and she doesn't have the time or patience to recreate her social graph in another tool. Facebook is just fine, thank you--it does everything it is supposed to by helping her keep in touch with her kids, high school friends and coworkers. For G+ to pull mom away from Facebook, Google's going to have to offer a lot more than Google+ currently does.

  2. Social media professionals want more influence; moms do not: To social media pros, influence is a currency as real and desired as gold (even at $1,742 per ounce). They track it in Klout, trade it in Empire Avenue, and monitor it on the Ad Age Power 150. The barest hint that a new social tool may catch on is enough to send social media pros racing to establish a presence; heaven forbid someone get there first and amass a larger audience! But your mom has all the influence she needs and couldn't care less about the size of her social graph. She doesn't have any desire to be seen as an early adopter, and unless and until a significant portion of her friends (and not just her crazy early-adopting son or daughter) shifts to G+, your mom won't either.

  3. Social media professionals travel in packs; moms do not: Do you know what it takes for Robert Scoble or Chris Brogan to build a healthy network in a new social network? They show up. These two well-known speakers and bloggers have large networks who want to stay connected, so when Scoble promotes his Google profile on his site and Brogan shuts down his Facebook profile with an "I have moved to G+" message, they can be assured a vibrant community will quickly develop on their new preferred social venue. But what happens when your mom tries to change social networks? Do all her siblings, her high school swim team and the members of her PTA group immediately follow in order to keep in touch? It's a very different (and much lonelier) experience for the average consumer to join a new social network. A mass shift may never occur from Facebook to Google+, but that is what it will take for most moms to change their social media habits.

  4. Social media pros love to share everything with expansive and complex networks; moms do not: One of Google+'s most interesting features is Circles, which permits users to post messages only within specific networks or sub-networks of contacts. Social media professionals have enormous and complex networks containing thousands of people--they have different relationships with different sets of peers, influencers, coworkers, readers, clients, family and friends. And the promise that Google+ could make their Google calendar, email, or search results shareable is enough to cause social media pros to explode with glee. But your mom not only doesn't want to share her calendar, she's deeply suspicious of having her entire life that wired together. And while she certainly has different sets of relationships, your mother has nowhere near the same need to manage those different networks in unique and differentiated ways. It's okay that her high school friends see the pictures of her grandson or that her family sees a book she shares with her book club. Google+'s Circles suit people who care to manage complex networks of contacts, but your mom is just as happy to stick with the simpler if cruder sharing mechanisms of Facebook. (That said, I still expect Facebook to follow Google+'s lead and begin to offer more controls based on Friend lists.)

  5. Social media pros hate Facebook; moms do not: I've never quite understood the level of disdain the people who make their livelihood from social media consulting have for the world's premier social network. The reason most often cited is that Facebook often violates users' privacy, but the list of entities that make money selling customer data is a huge one that encompasses credit card providers (though not USAA), cell phone services, cable TV, online ad networks, GPS device makers, supermarkets and even physicians. There is no doubt that Facebook has a vast image problem that it would be wise to take seriously, but mom simply doesn't share the same animus toward Facebook that is common among libertarian, open-source-loving, terms-and-conditions-reading early adopters. The irony of social media professionals leaping from Facebook to Google+ is that there is no indication Google will be any more open than is Facebook--after all, Google didn't become an $182-billion company by open-sourcing search and mobile platforms. 

Google+ will be important; it will be necessary; and eventually it may even become a true mass social medium; however, that will only happen when moms start making the switch and not just tech and social media professionals. I simply don't foresee that happening any time soon, no matter what some breathless chart of adoption statistics shows.

It is said that good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that could have been avoided if we had listened to our moms. It's time for social media pros to listen a little more to their mothers and a little less to each other.