Perception is One Thing, Reality Another

March 31, 2014
By: Gary Kim

Consumer perception and statistical reality often diverge, and that is no less the case for social networks. Most casual observers would tend to agree that Facebook (News - Alert) is big, Twitter probably smaller (in terms of engaged users or total users), while Google Plus lags badly.

That definitely was true when Google (News - Alert) Plus launched. But Google Plus appears to have more users, and perhaps even more engaged users, than the conventional wisdom suggests.

After polling 60,000 U.S. online adults which social sites they used, about 22 percent indicated  they visited Google Plus each month, the same percentage reporting they use Twitter (News - Alert) every month.

Google Plus and Twitter were more popular with adult users than LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram, the Forrester Research survey found.

Also, after looking at brand posts on Google Plus (more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven social networks), Forrester (News - Alert) Research found that Google Plus posts generated nearly as much engagement per follower as their Facebook posts, and almost twice as much engagement per follower as their Twitter posts.

To be sure, that is of primary interest mostly to advertisers buying exposure, and the executives of companies that have share prices.

But it also illustrates the gap between perception and statistical reality that characterizes many products and industries. Sometimes consumers perceive matters one way, and reality is something different.

One sometimes hears a statement that U.S. broadband speeds are “behind” some other nations, or “slower than” most countries, or something of that sort.

With the caveat that such measurements are highly subject to what one chooses to measure, the data is far more inconclusive than many could believe. Measuring U.S. states, for example, and not the “whole United States,” yields disparate results.

Measuring states that are large urban centers, for example, shows speeds “most” people are able to get. Some states, with large rural populations, will have slower speeds, simply because rural areas tend to have slower access speeds, compared to cities.

One might make the same argument about average speeds, peak speeds and prices. One often hears it said that U.S. high speed access prices are high. That depends on which plans are compared and whether most people buy the plans being studied. Also, retail prices vary from country to country.

So researchers often adjust prices, measuring cost as a percentage of household income, for example, not in absolute price. When measured that way, U.S. prices are among the lowest in the world.

That is not to say improvement is unnecessary or undesirable, only to point out that perception and reality often are quite different. 




Edited by Cassandra Tucker