Google+ Pages: More engaging than Facebook?

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Google’s rollout of Google+ Pages this week gives media companies another channel to promote their content. And judging by some early results, the platform holds much potential as a way for a publisher to increase engagement with its audience.

First, the basics. Google offers an online guide to creating and managing a Google+ Page.  Key features include Hangouts, which lets you set up a video conversation with your followers. (Think instant focus group or an informal town hall meeting.) And Circles are a great way to segment your audience into the topics they care most about.

Mashable offers some tips on setting up a brand page, as well as an early comparison of brand marketers’ new Google+ Pages vs. their existing Facebook pages.

For this post, I explored the first batch of media company pages on Google+, including those from PBS MediaShift, Mashable, TechCrunch, the New York Times and CNET – sites that I follow closely. (There’s a list of early media brand pages at +BreakingNews.)

The first iterations of media companies’ Google+ Pages are similar in both design and content to their Facebook siblings. The initial posts are predictable – mostly story teases and some photo galleries. Videos are scarce. None of this is surprising, considering the pages just launched this week. Here are two examples, comparing the Google+ and Facebook pages from The Atlantic and PBS MediaShift.

The Atlantic

  

  

PBS MediaShift

  

  

Still experimenting

How will these brands ultimately differentiate the content they’re posting on Google+ from that of their Facebook fan page? Most admit that they don’t really know; for now, they’re experimenting with different types of content. In its introductory Google+ post, The New York Times suggested some ways in which its Google+ Page will be different:

“Rather than recreate the full New York Times report here, we want to explore the unique strengths of this new platform. In this spirit, we plan to take advantage of a few key features available here on Google+. First, this network has shown itself to be a place that encourages deep conversation, and from what we’ve observed so far, many of you are passionate and smart consumers of technology. We’ll give you thought-provoking stories about how technology is transforming our societies, and look forward to sparking debate. Second, we’ll soon start a series of video hangouts. We hope to use them to interview sources, conduct reporter roundtables around big stories that are being covered from many different locations, or have reporters and editors talk directly with you.

Publishers are also actively soliciting feedback from their followers. "We have other ideas in the works, but we want to hear from you," the NYT posted. "What would you like to see The New York Times do on Google+?" Similarly, The Atlantic asked its followers for fresh ideas:

  

What’s surprising is how quickly these brands are developing active, engaged followers. On some Google+ pages, comments on posts are already surpassing the number of comments for the same teaser on Facebook – a signal that Google+ could be a far better platform for engaging readers. Check out Cnet's Facebook post to a story on Google's Eric Schmidt (92 comments) vs. its Google+ post of the same story (100 comments):

  

  

Similar results for a TechCrunch story posted in both Facebook (20 comments) and Google+ (23 comments): 

  

  

This is astonishing, given the respective size of the audiences for each publisher on Facebook and Google+.

Said one commenter on Cnet’s Google+ Page: “Finally, I can leave Facebook for good now.”

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