How Chicken Teriyaki Is A More Popular Lunch Meal Than A Jacket Potato aka The Google Plus Popularity Pantomime

Adrian Johnson

September 16th, 2013

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Earlier this month I spotted an article from The Drum with the headline “Google+ is second ‘most actively used’ social network globally”.

Let’s just read that again. The second. Most actively used. Social network. Globally.

My gut instinct was this:

So I Tweeted the company behind the research to see if the online article headline and the facts from the research married up.

Marcello Mari, Sales Development at GlobalWebIndex, was good enough to respond straight away.

The figure about second-most actively used social network comes from this chart:

So I asked Marcello how many people responded to the question ‘which platform have they been actively using in the last month’. It turns out that there is a very decent sample size. The total number of respondents for this, their Q2 2013 survey, was 27,604 people.

It was a multiple choice question with respondents allowed to select as many answers that were applicable – 7,921 answered Google Plus. Or 28.7%, which is the figure in the right-hand chart, above.

So far, so good: 28.7% of internet users globally admit to using Google Plus. Second, behind Facebook which more than 50% of the respondents use.

However, despite these stats, this still doesn’t stand up the headline I questioned: “Google+ is second ‘most actively used’ social network globally”.

Because this implies, to me at least, that G+ is the social network with the second highest frequency of use ie that more people are using G+ more regularly than, say, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or Pinterest.

But, as they say, there’s lies, damned lies, and statistics.

GlobalWebIndex, with all the best intentions, asked whether respondents had been active on G+ in the last month. It didn’t ask how many hours they spent on each social platform. So, the research headline is pretty misleading.

We did our own, albeit not massively robust, research into the popularity of four of the biggest social media networks a year ago. Our idea was to track which social channels users were more likely to share news story links across.

Our thinking was that, if two networks have a similar number of official users, then activity should be about the same, too.

Back then, Twitter had 140m users and G+ had 170m. So, in theory, more people should be sharing links on G+ than Twitter, because it has more users. In reality Twitter came out way ahead of G+ (by 33-fold).

For every 100m users, the average number of people likely to share a story on Twitter was 197.3, for Goole+ this was 6.

This tells us that despite having a very large number of accounts, very few people actively use G+. This is backed up by ComScore research which shows that G+ users spend just 3.3 minutes per month on the site, compared with 7.5 hours per month on Facebook.

Here’s an analogy. I had Japanese food yesterday (teriyaki chicken donburi, as you asked). It’s the second time I’ve had food from Wagamama this year. The last time, documented below, was also teriyaki chicken donburi (I’m a creature of habit).

Yet I’d hardly classify my, thus far, twice-annual consumption of Japanese food to be on the ‘most actively consumed’ scale.

But, using the criteria in the GWI research, had I been asked the question today ‘Which of the following foods have you eaten for lunch in the last month:

Teriyaki chicken donburi
Jacket Potato
Soup
Sandwich
Other?’

In the last 30 days, I’ve had a sarnie for lunch approximately 20 times, I’ve had soup twice, I’ve had Japanese once, and the rest made up with other stuff. I haven’t had a jacket potato for lunch in the last four weeks.

‘Japanese’ ranks as high as ‘Sandwich’ and you could argue in a press release (with an appropriate asterisk) that, for British workers, Japanese food is as popular as sandwiches as a lunchtime meal, ahead of jacket potatoes.

Now, imagine the fury at the Potato Council when they hear about this.

Google-Plus-Ghost-Town-Social-Shares-versus-Twitter-LinkedIn-Facebook-Umpf

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2 Responses

  1. Your original tweet actually inspired me to write this post on the topic: http://www.maxtb.com/blog/2013/09/06/in-defence-of-google/

    I think you might be scrutinising the wrong problem here…

  2. Cheers Max. I understand what Google is doing. I have no problem with that.
    My problem is that G+ as a social network is being compared, in these reports and by the media, as comprable in terms of activity levels with Twitter et al and it’s clearly not. If you were buying advertising on G+ and the Google sales team were using these stats, they’d be entirely missleading.

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