Earlier this year I published a comprehensive study of content and brand visibility on Google+ and one of the most intriguing concepts outlined in the study was the notion that Google+ represents a form of a display network. “Discovery Paths for Brands and Content” was going to be my sequel, but I decided to test out a few of my ideas in an experiment before I speculate any further.
Consider a scenario in which Dr. Pete comments on a Google+ post. His photo and a link to his profile are visible in three places:
1. In a sample of people who commented or +1’d the post (visible below the image).
2. In the comments.
3. Post detail flip-side.
From any of these areas people can hover and follow Dr. Pete or click through to his profile and follow him from there. Even though there are numerous other profile discovery paths I’ve decided to investigate the most common one – post engagement.
For the purpose of the experiment we used our Perth Google+ page, otherwise inactive, since we have a centralised strategy and only use our main brand page for Google+ engagement.
We wanted to see if our page gains visibility by re-sharing others’ posts even if our re-shares were invisible to public. We did so by re-sharing to an empty circle to eliminate any explicit search visibility. This means that the only place Google+ users would see our Perth page was as described in the image above, as one of the pages which engaged on other people’s posts:
The image share above had 1388 impressions, fraction of which displayed our logo, leading to page discovery and potential new followers.
In the first stage of the experiment we shared random content from random people on Google+ and in the second stage we switched to a more targeted approach.
We created 3 circles:
Blank circle remained empty and nobody had access to our re-shares. The other two were populated with top 100 profiles and pages. Each day we then selected five posts which had low reshares and +1s and then shared them to “Blank”, this was done to ensure good visibility on those posts. Posts with many +1’s and reshares are less likely to display our profile image in the post interactions section.
In the graph below you can see the state of the pages’ visibility prior to the experiment, during random sharing (stage 1) and targeted sharing (stage 2) followed by us stopping all sharing activity. The two periods of no activity before and after the experiment are important as they demonstrate that the our data hasn’t been contaminated by any external factors and we’ve observing brand discovery through re-sharing activity only.
Here is the same graph broken down into each individual contributor to profile visibility (slightly expanded date range):
What’s interesting is that in addition to the expected visibility signals (post, profile and photo views) search view activity rises as well. At this point I have no explanation for it.
The end goal (in addition to brand display, discovery and awareness) was to see if the experiment would result in any followers. And it did:
During the test period our Perth page has gained its only 12 followers and stopped gaining followers shortly after we ended our re-sharing activity.
Engaging on other people’s posts through +1’s, reshares and comments leads to brand and profile discovery and can result in new followers on its own. This alone is not a sound engagement tactic as the yield in new followers doesn’t appear to be dramatic in our scenario (five re-shares once per day). However, in line with natural discussion, relationship building and context, post visibility could be a significant booster to follower acquisition and profile strength on Google+.