Damien's profile photo
+Damien Walker

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where has all the Google Love gone?

If you're a Google Plus user who likes to create and share content, what do you think is the best thing about sharing on Google Plus?

My circle of contacts is heavy with photographers and artists and those I interact with the most say it's the level of engagement from other users that makes G+ such a great experience. I've seen many gushing reports of the amazing response users get to their content on G+ compared to the same content when posted on Facebook and Flickr.

One of the most active and most followed photographers in G+ is my Flickr mate, Thomas Hawk. TH is also one of G+'s most vocal advocates. Soon after joining G+ Thomas wrote:
"My photos posted to Google+ receive far more attention than posting them to any other social network." 
And he later added:
"Photos on Google+ get way more engagement and interaction, for the photographers that put the effort in. Almost every photographer who has put the effort in at G+ has gotten way more engagement than any other site. I’ve never seen anything like the engagement photos get on G+ — new photographers and popular photographers alike."
If you were looking for a place to show of your work and engage with your audience this makes a compelling argument to get on the Google Plus bandwagon. It was a sentiment shared by the very popular photographer, Trey Ratcliff who said in July:
"Less than 12 hours ago, I exclusively put up a new photo of Paris, and the level of engagement has been 100x higher than anything on Facebook."
The indefatigable, inimitable Robert Scoble has been equally as positive about the unmatched level of engagement on G+:
"Why am I a Google+ Fan? Well, let's look. I posted a link to my blog about Facebook's new features at 11 a.m. on both Facebook and Google+.
What's the results?
On Google+ I got 46 + 1's. 84 shares. 100 comments. So far.
On Facebook I got six likes. So far. NO comments.
On Twitter I got 11 retweets. So far. Very few comments back other than "nice post."
Says it all, really."
My experience has been much the same but at a more pedestrian level than these guys who have close to 2 million followers between them (I just know that number will look ridiculously small in just a few months!). I've been buoyed by the Google Love just like they have and the level of interest my photography has enjoyed in G+ would never have happened elsewhere.

But it seems the honeymoon might be coming to an end. All parties have moved to their respective ends of the couch and appear to have stopped noticing one another.

In the heady early days of G+ (yes, yes, these are the early days, but I'm talking about the really early days) there was a palpable level of what seemed genuine interest in one another's posts as comment after comment, +1 after +1 filled our notification alerts. Many of us switched off Google's notifications because the number of incoming messages was so high. When I told Lotus Carroll back in July that I was still getting email notifications she asked "Are you just about ready to kill yourself when you look at your inbox?" Well, maybe I should have turned off my email notifications but I like the "Bing!" "Bing!" as my messages arrive..... it makes me feel loved :-)

Anyway, back to the jaded married couple on the couch. You see, these days the level of interaction has fallen to such a low level it has become close to zero, for even the most popular Pluskins. Before you guffaw at that ridiculous statement, consider things in their proper context. Back in July last year, for example, Thomas would receive maybe 100 +1s and 30 or so comments on his photo posts and those numbers were exceptional when compared to the response he was getting on Flickr and Facebook. This month he typically receives 400 or more +1s and over 100 comments for every post.

Pretty good, huh? Well, no, in fact. Back in July TH was in around 5,000 circles, today he's in almost 900,000. In real terms Thomas gets a response from almost nobody - 0.04% give him a +1 and 0.0078% leave a comment! That's so close to zero it doesn't matter.

Click on this graph of comments and +1s per post since July last year.

Since we got this thing started, TH's levels of interaction with his audience has dwindled to almost nothing. And he's not on his Pat Malone. The same thing has occurred with Trey Ratcliff and Elena Kalis. I've gone cross-eyed today stalking their streams and counting the number of comments and +1s they've received and graphed that against their increasing number of followers (thanks to and found all three are currently being all but ignored by their audience who are apparently sitting at the opposite end of the couch with their nose in a magazine.

Here is Trey's chart.

And here is Elena's.

Click on them for a better look, they're just like Thomas'. Is it possible our heavyweights have significance due to their huge following but no relevance?

So where did all the Google Love go? It beats the hell out of me but I think it's a phenomenon our Google Overlords had better be thinking about. If the likes of Thomas, Trey and Elena, with all their creativity and high quality content are being more or less ignored by the people who have circled them what hope does Google have of keeping a complete newbie interested? I've made this point before as have many others, but the fact remains Google needs to get our friends and family in here otherwise they may end up with a massive social network filled with hundreds of millions of Pluskins with nothing to say to one another.


  1. I would like to know how I can make a chart like the ones shown in your post.

  2. It's the same the world over - information overload.

    These folks you mention may engage, may interact, may post good content but then so do lots of other people - me for example. OK, so my images may not be at the level of these guys (and I recognise that) but I engage with everyone that comments and I go out of my way to provide commentary and engaging feedback on other peoples posts.

    But then you can get totally ignored (no names here) and eventually you start to think - that's a nic photo but I can't be a$%^& to provide engaging feedback because you never respond.

    Taking "your pal TH" he engaged with me over a comment but rather than be positive about an image of mine he had a dig at me on his stream in front of his adoring fans because I had the temerity to sign one of my pictures.

    F%^* right off TH I say because you'll get no more from me which is why I'm sat at the other end of the couch from him. But to get back to my point ... I only follow approx 2k folks but the sheer volume of pictures coming through means I simply can't be meaningful with them all and that would be the same in reverse.

    But, that all said, I'm still sharing my ball in the G+ verse and it just needs your pals to continue to do so too.

  3. Thank you for this. It is interesting data points
    I think your charts are a tad misleading though. You say it yourself in the body of your post: Absolute engagement is going up, engagement relative to number of followers is going down. I would suggest you also look at the number of people G+ers are following nowadays vs. in the really early days: it most likely went up dramatically.

    Illustration: then, I had 10 people in my circles and were +1ing 10 times a day. So I was +1ing 1 person a day.
    now I have 1000 people in my circles and am +1ing 20 times a day. So while my level of engagement has gone up (2x), the 1000 people in my circles perceive a 50x DROP. Has the Google love gone? not really. the engagement per user has actually gone up.

  4. I'd really like to know if +1's for comments to comments have gone up or down. That is to say, interaction between commenters.

    Now where is the +1 button for that commment from Antoine?

  5. Interesting and thanks for crunching these numbers, Damien. Do you think it's possible that some of this could be explained by the level of interaction that Elena, Thomas and Trey were able to carry out with their commenters? In other words, as the numbers went up, their ability to personally respond went down, and that made people less interested in commenting and interacting?

  6. People have found their cliques or groups and they post and engage more with those people. Also, some people like pictures and gifs more and some people want real updates and blog like posts. It's all about what your followers really enjoy. You have to know them to know how to posts. I'm getting more engagement now than when I was on in July. It ebbs and flows.