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Google+ Changes Rules of Engagement

Google+ Changes Rules of Engagement

Google+ has plenty of members, but most of them don't interact much on the network. Google aims to make things a little more interesting by giving users some data on how often their content is viewed by others. That info can be hidden by a tweak to settings for those who'd rather keep their popularity stats to themselves. Google+ is the first major social network to offer this metric.

By John P. Mello Jr.
Apr 2, 2014 11:09 AM PT

Gauging your popularity on Google's social network, Google+, got a little easier Tuesday, as the would-be Facebook competitor added page view analytics.

Now, when members view their profile page -- which metrics show isn't that often -- they'll see a number beneath their mug indicating the number of times their content -- profile page, posts and photos -- has been viewed by someone since Oct. 12, 2012.

Someone doesn't have to click on your content to generate a page view, Google+ Chief Architect Yonatan Zunger explained in a Google+ post.

When someone views your profile, a page view results, he noted. "For other things, it's when they look at it -- e.g., when one of your posts shows up on someone's screen. (That's because this is how most people read posts: showing up in a stream, without clicking on it explicitly)."

By default, the page view numbers are visible to anyone eyeballing a profile page. However, members can make the analytics private through their Google+ settings

Unique Differentiator

The page view metrics could set apart Google+ from other social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, noted Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

"It's something people would like to know on Twitter and Facebook," he told TechNewsWorld, "but right now, no one else is doing it. So it's a way for Google+ to set themselves apart, and they're always looking for ways to give people a reason to come there rather than somewhere else."

Members' interest in content views have been used by some social networks as an incentive to boost their cash flow. For example, LinkedIn notifies its members on a weekly basis how many times their profiles have been viewed but requires an upgrade to its premium service to get more detailed view information.

Adding a metric such as page views is a natural thing for Google.

"Google is an analytics-driven company -- both internally and externally -- so it fits with their world view of providing you with lots and lots of data," Dawson said.

Traffic Wars

Page views could have a positive impact on traffic to Google+.

"Those page views could create a competition between users to drive people to their Google+ pages as opposed to their Facebook or Twitter locations," Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

Google+, which was launched in 2011, has about half the users of Facebook -- 540 million compared to more than 1 billion -- but those users spend far less time with Google+ -- an average of seven minutes a month compared to six hours for Facebook.

Regardless of whether the page view gambit bumps up traffic, it could still have a positive effect on Google+.

"It's trying to raise awareness that Google+ is a widely used platform, an active platform, not just a ghost town with a bunch of registered users who are unengaged," said Opus Research analyst Greg Sterling.

"They're showing these page views as a way to indicate there's ongoing active engagement with the content there," he told TechNewsWorld.

Good Engagement

Actually, on some levels, engagement on Google+ is on par with Facebook, especially among name brands.

"People who go to Google+ appear to be interacting with folks more aggressively than they do on other services," Enderle said. "If that interest scales with growth in Google+, it should give them a distinct advantage over other social networks."

Engagement rates with brands on Google+ were 0.069 percent compared to .073 percent for Facebook in survey findings Forrester Research released earlier this week. That means, for example, if a brand has a million followers on Facebook, 730 of them will interact with the brand's content.

"Our data says that large brands find nearly as many followers on Google+ as they do on Twitter, and those followers are twice as likely to engage in brand posts," Forrester analyst Nate Elliott told TechNewsWorld.

"It will be interesting for users to know how many people have seen their Google+ page," he added.

"Google+ is looking for any edge they can get -- any reason they can find to convince people to spend time there," he continued. "If this is one feature that convinces people that Google+ is more interesting than they thought, then Google will do it."

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.

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