As Facebook has proved, the social graph can be a valuable marketing tool. Google’s new social network, it seems, is no exception — the company says ads incorporating Google+ social data have seen an uptick in engagement.
Google Vice President for Engineering Vic Gundotra told the New York Times Tuesday that advertisements on Google sites with “social annotations,” such as thumbnails that indicates someone you’re connected to once clicked a +1 button on an ad, have experienced a 5% to 10% increase in click-through rates.
‘We have been in this business for a long time,” Gundotra said, “and there are very few things that give you a 5 to 10 percent increase on ad engagement.”
This sort of social recommendation is a proven boon to online advertising. After Facebook introduced new features to Sponsored Stories, which highlight Friends’ connections with marketers on each other’s profiles, Nielsen tracked 79 marketing campaigns over six months in order to determine the new format’s effect compared to ads on the platform that don’t include such information.
Ads that told users their friends had liked or interacted with a brand page saw a 55% rise in ad recall.
Gundotra pointed out to the Times one advantage Google has over Facebook in the social advertising arena. Google’s ads, socially annotated or otherwise, are delivered to users when they search for something directly.
What do I do when I’m looking to buy sunglasses? I Google “sunglasses.” That’s a great time to hit me with a sunglasses ad.
Meanwhile, on Facebook, such messages are delivered to me without this information about my intentions. Facebook knows what I like in general, but it would have a hard time pinpointing the exact moment at which I’m in the market for a new pair of shades.
But Google’s 5% to 10% uptick, while impressive, is not the biggest we’ve ever seen. When Facebook announced its “sponsored stories” feature, one study found the format had a 46% higher click-through rate than other ads offered by the site. Granted, the site’s click-through rate was never relatively stellar, but it makes sense that its strategy of implicit social recommendations immediately paid off: It has more than 500 million users who, in the U.S. at least, spend an average of 8 hours per month on its site.
Google+, meanwhile, has yet to prove that it has taken off as a social network. On Tuesday, the company revealed that 50 million people with Google+ profiles use “Google-Plus enhanced products” such as YouTube and Google Search. But that doesn’t say anything about how many people are spending time on the social network itself.
The company does, evidently, have enough active users of its social features to cause a bump in ad engagement. But when users say they spend an average of 3.3 minutes on Google+ itself in the month of January compared to 7.5 hours on Facebook, as they did in a recent Comscore report, it seems there’s potential for a much greater increase.