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Pinterest vs. Google+: It's All About the Visuals
Posted on June 19th 2013
If you keep up with the trends in social media, it's no secret that visual content such as photos, videos, and infographics are the hottest thing going these days. They get viewed more and shared more than any other type of posts, and there's no great mystery as to why that is. Attention spans are growing shorter and shorter in the online age, with too much to take in and not enough time to take it in. A good visual piece can convey tons of information in the least amount of time, and the human brain responds to visual stimulus in a powerful way.
With all this in mind, it's no wonder that social sites are adapting quickly. Twitter's integration of Vine and Facebook's purchase of Instagram are prime examples of this trend. Therefore the quick rise of Pinterest is no shock either, being a site which is built around visual content. Nor should it be a surprise to any that the average Pinterest user spent a whopping 97 minutes or more on the site when visiting, according to data from January of 2012. That's over an hour and a half for everyone playing at home. Considering that the average Google+ user spent a paltry 3.3 minutes on average during the same month, It's obvious that the Mountain View giant's recent changes to their social site were primarily geared toward the visual user and even appear to be a direct response to Pinterest's layout in some regards.
If you are a business or online marketer, which of these two sites should you be concentrating on? The answer is subjective of course, depending on your target demographic and what kind of business you have, but I'll illustrate some of the differences here in order to help you make a more informed decision. (hint: the quick answer is, you should use both)
Cards Are King
The layout of both Pinterest and Google+ are designed around the "card" look, which is becoming the standard for many sites and apps, especially anything Android (or Google) related. The acceptance of the card design has been pretty much wide if not almost universal, as it makes things easier to read and sort through. Pinterest has adopted a 5-wide card view, while Google+ gives you 2 or 3 cards wide as the default, depending on the size and resolution of the screen. You can easily switch to a single column on G+, but in my opinion it doesn't look nearly as good and provides way too much empty and wasted space on the screen. This recent change to G+ makes it look eerily similar to Pinterest, but that is of course by design in order to capitalize on the high viewership and stickiness of Pinterest.
In response to the changes, social media marketing tools are also changing the way that you can schedule your posts to G+, adding full images and a link instead of only links previews.
Social networks weren't designed for marketing initially, so it's no surprise that in the early stages of both G+ and Pinterest, neither allowed brands to have accounts of their own. This changed fairly quickly in the case of G+, as the site began to grow beyond merely a social site to what many have predicted will be the hub of all of Google's wide reach eventually. Business pages were added to Pinterest as well, putting yet another similarity between the two. In either case the business's page can be visited directly or their posts melded into your stream if you follow them.
Pinterest's advantage for a business with visual appeal, such as item for sale which can be displayed in their stream, comes almost solely from the fact that they started out as a bulletin-board type of site and haven't deviated from it, whereas G+ really spent some time sorting out what exactly it was going to be. After the massive failures of Google Buzz and Google Wave, this long game was a smart move for Google, even if it did put them behind the curve temporarily.
Where Pinterest ends and G+ begins
The comparison between the two pretty much ends there, with the exception of the demographic question. Pinterest is THE site for women ages 18-34 (83% of its users) and the bulk of posts center around design, fashion, and decor. G+ on the other hand is over 60% male, with technology posts littering the landscape. This difference alone could make all of the difference in where you concentrate your efforts, but before you dismiss G+ completely, keep reading.
G+ has made other improvements recently focused on images. All images are now uploaded in full resolution (unless you choose to change that setting) and they have built in some pretty cool features which make the comparison start drifting from Pinterest into new areas such as the realm of Flickr. Auto Enhance automatically "fixes" your pictures as soon as you upload them, not only adjusting the expected things like contrast or brightness, but going as far as to recognize faces and remove blemishes from them. These features are all optional of course, as well as non-destructive, and can be disabled at any time. Auto Awesome goes even a step further, stitching together groups of similar pictures into an animated GIF, picking the best smiles from a series of shots and stitching together a "better" picture, and more.
You may be asking what picture enhancement and storage has to do with a marketing comparison of these two sites, and the short answer is everything. Not because of the features themselves, but because of the sheer scope of Google's bigger plan. Everything on G+ which is shared or has the +1 clicked automatically gets fed into the search algorithm, making it easier to find when doing a Google search from the old fashioned search site or a toolbar search. G+ is also intimately tied into products such as Drive, Google Docs, Gmail. Google Calendar, and many more. Because of this reason alone, ignoring G+ or underutilizing it as a business is a very poor choice. Your target audience may be on Pinterest, but that doesn't mean they won't be tied into G+ sooner than you or they think, in one way or another.