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Social Media Head-to-Head: How Do Twitter and Google+ Differ?

Eric Enge

Social networks have different capabilities and focus, and this shows itself in the way people use them. One big mistake brands and people make when they engage in social media efforts is that they treat all the sites the same. 

As a result, most of that effort ends up being wasted.  For that reason, it's important to understand what the differences are between the various networks, and then you could use that information to better tune and optimize your overall efforts.

At Stone Temple Consulting, we have done detailed studies on what drives engagement on both Twitter and Google+. Based on what we found, in today's article I will share some of the key similarities and differences we saw between these two social media platforms.

In particular, my goal will be to show you how user expectations differ between the two, and therefore, provide you with insights as to how you can get better results from your efforts on each platform.

Related Article: What’s Really Going On With Google+?

What Are the Similarities?

There are definitely some aspects of the Google+ and Twitter that are quite similar, which might immediately surprise you because they seem quite different. This is great, because it does allow you to have some common aspects for how you share and engage on them both.

Including a photo/image significantly increases engagement. It's well known that people love to engage with images on social media, and our data confirmed that in a big way:

posts that include photos; Google+ vs Twitter

This should be no surprise! Note that the impact on Google+ in somewhat higher than it is on Twitter, and that may be due to the superior photo sharing capabilities of Google+.

A word of warning: this does not mean that every single post you ever share on social media needs to have an image in it. But, for those posts of yours where engagement is truly a major goal, then yes, make a point to include a compelling image that is directly related to the content of the post.

In addition, it's helpful if you optimize your image sizes for each platform as this will result in the best image quality. Here are the ideal image sizes for each:

  • Twitter: 1024 x 512 pixels
  • Google+: 1280 x 720 pixels

Length Makes a Difference

Both Twitter and Google+ seem to get more engagement based on the length of the share:

character count; Google+ vs Twitter

Since Twitter has limited character length, longer simply seems better, all the way up to the 131 to 140-character range. This seems to contradict the common wisdom that it's best to limit Tweet length to 120 or so to make it easier for people to ReTweet your tweets, but it seems that in today's environment, people are quite willing to edit the tweet down in order to reshare it.

Google+ does not have the same length limitations, and many think of it as a place for long form content and discussions. The sweet spot for Google+ seems to be between 500 and 1,000 characters. The drop-off in engagement after 1,000 characters is pretty significant, so it does seem that a certain level of fatigue sets in if your post is too long.

So even though longer is better on both platforms, you can clearly see that taking you 135 character Tweet and resharing it on Google+ without putting more thought of it will reduce your engagement dramatically there. For example, your chances of getting ReShares are cut by more than 50%.

Related Article: 7 Reasons Your Small Business Should Be Using Google+

Hashtags Increase Engagement

Hashtags increase engagement on both platforms as shown here:

posts that include hashtags; Twitter vs Google+

As you can see, the impact of using hashtags is also more pronounced on Google+. For example, the chances of a ReTweet go up about 50% if you use a hashtag, but the changes of a ReShare on Google+ go up almost 6x if you use a hashtag.

What Are the Differences?

There are significant differences in user behavior on the two platforms. Let's dig into seeing what they are!

Google+ is Much More About Conversation

This becomes immediately clear when you look at the chances of getting a reply:

chances of getting a reply; Google+ vs Twitter

In fact, the difference is dramatic, with 15.6% of all G+ posts getting a reply, vs. 0.7% for Twitter. Users on Twitter aren't generally looking to have a conversation. On G+, however, the expectations are clearly different!

Mentions Much More Valuable on Google

The data for this tells a pretty clear story:

increased chance of mentions; Twitter vs Google+

This is consistent with the notion of G+ being more of a discussion platform. When you plus mention someone on Google+, you are inviting them to a conversation, whereas on Twitter, it's more about giving credit.

On Google+, you can plus mention people to encourage conversation, but do this judiciously. If you constantly plus mention lots of people on your posts it comes across like shouting in a crowded room.

Tuning Your Campaign For Each Platform

Now that we have seen the raw data, let's take a look at the best way to tune your campaigns.

Optimizing for Twitter

Here is your recipe in a nutshell:

  • Use relevant, compelling, images on your most important posts
  • Use 1 or 2 hashtags related to the topic of your post
  • Implement Tweets between 120 and 140 characters
  • Don't expect a ton of dialog on your tweets, but if people to reply, make a point of replying back to them
  • Use mentions as a way of giving credit when credit is due, but don't include them in most of your Tweets

Related Article: The Anatomy of an Engaging B2B Twitter Profile

Optimizing for Google+

Let's take a look at the recipe for Google+ to see what we need to do differently:

  • Use relevant, compelling, images on your most important posts
  • Use 1 or 2 hashtags related to the topic of your post
  • Implement Shares between 500 and 1000 characters
  • When applicable, invite conversation and dialog on your posts. This level of engagement encourages resharing and relationship building
  • Use plus mentions to give credit (as on Twitter), but also to invite people to dialog with you on your post. Be careful to not overuse this tactic

The above formulas are not hard and fast rules that should apply to every post you ever do. You may well have Tweets where a 70 character Tweet is exactly what you do, and it's not a catastrophe if you fail to include a hashtag on a post on either platform. Use the above as guidelines to help you think about the audience in each place and to tune the general direction of how you put posts together for each.

Bottom Line

The above data helps us really understand some of the differences on how the platforms are used. Twitter is used by many as a pure news feed, and having a conversation there is not what most people are looking for (though Twitter Chats are a notable exception).

Google+ does not have the same character limitations at Twitter, and has richer media sharing capabilities. For that reason the expectations are quite different. Conversations are much more the norm.

If you are looking to build a presence on both of these platforms, it's important that you understand these differences and adapt your strategies accordingly. Simply resharing your tweets on Google+ will accomplish very little. Similarly, expecting lots of conversation on Twitter will not work that well for you either.

Smart marketers learn the ins and outs of each platform they share on, and leverage their unique capabilities to get more engagement from their audience.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Eric Enge Member
Eric Enge is the CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, a 45+ person digital marketing agency with offices in Massachusetts and California. Eric is also the lead co-author of "The Art of SEO" with Stephan Spencer and Jessie Stricchiola. He also writes for Forbes, The Digital Marketing Excellence blog, Copyblogger, and Search Engine Land, and is a frequent speaker at numerous industry conferences.