Google+ vs. Flickr vs. Facebook vs. 500px vs. Twitter

The Hatch

Yesterday I posted a photograph of mine on 5 different sites at about the same time. The photo above, The Hatch, was posted to Google+ (Google’s much hyped new social network), Flickr, Facebook, 500px (an exciting up and coming new photo sharing service) and Twitter.

I will try to compare, the best I can, the attention that the same photograph received from each of these sites over the course of 24 hours. If as a photographer you are looking at photo sharing sites, in part, as a way to promote your work to a wider audience, the engagement your photographs receive online may be of interest. This case is very specific and of course everyone’s circumstances will differ, but this is my experience.

Before examining the attention the above photograph received in various places, I think it is worthwhile to look at some of the numbers (for me) behind each of these sites. Following are the number of “followers” roughly that I have on each of the sites mentioned, the approximate time I joined the sites, and how active I engage on them.

Google+: Google+ is a brand new social network It was opened to limited beta users last week. I’ve been on it now less than a week, but I enjoy shiny new things and so I’ve been somewhat active. At present I have 1,861 followers there.

Flickr: Flickr is the largest well organized library of images in the world. It’s the grandaddy big gorilla of photosharing. I joined Flickr in August of 2004 and have been active almost every day that I’ve been on the site. I generally upload 50 photos every day to flickr, have favorited or commented on over 100,000 photos of other users, and am active as an admin in a large and popular group. 21,125 people call me a contact on Flickr.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network. I have 3,161 friends following me on Facebook. I joined Facebook in September of 2006, pretty shortly after they allowed non-college students to join. I’ve never been impressed with Facebook and spend the least amount of time on the site of the five mentioned. I do however post daily to Facebook and occasionally engage with other people on the site.

500px is an exciting new up and coming photosharing site being built by a small innovative team out of Tornoto. 500px currently has some of the best photography being shared on the web being published there. I joined 500px a few months ago in April. 1,558 people are subscribed to my photos there.

Twitter is the world’s most popular micro blogging service — I joined shortly after it was launched in December of 2006. Twitter just started photo sharing last month with a partnership with Photobucket. I currently have 19,285 followers on Twitter.

So not all of the sites above measure views. But here are the breakdowns on the photo published.

Views: Unknown
+1’s (i.e. likes/favorites): 45
Reshares: 2
Comments: 14

Views: 102
Faves: 7
Comments: 2

Views: Unknown
Likes: 10
Comments: 3

Views: 52
Favorites: 4
Comments: 5

Views: Unknown
Faves: 0

Conclusion: My photos posted to Google+ receive far more attention than posting them to any other social network. Part of this might be due to the fact that Google+ is still a brand spanking new super shiny social network with lots of activity as people are checking it out. Part of it also may be the fact that every time someone comments on my photo there it “bumps” the photo back to the top of my followers’ activity stream.

Google+ doesn’t seem to report views on your photo, but based on the engagement on the photo I’d guess that it was viewed far more on Google+ yesterday than any of the other sites. Whether or not this sort of high activity will continue is anybody’s guess — but at least for now, if you are a photographer who wants to promote their work on the web, Google+ seems like a place that you definitely want to be sharing.

As an aside, I think how each of these sites shows your photo is important to the attention that they receive. There are two ways that people see your photo, in more limited stream view and then in better detail/lightbox view. In my opinion Google+ and 500px do the best job sharing your photos most beautifully. Both provide big oversized thumbnails that are elegantly shown to your contacts and both have really nice detail pages when you click through to a photograph.

Google+’s lightbox view, however, is over the top. It really is the best detail photo page on the web today, big giant oversized photos that load super fast and are on a black lightbox background. It is a very fast one click away from a photo in a stream and one click back, encouraging people to click through. Flickr has a lightbox view but it’s 2 steps away from your contacts looking at your photo (not one like Flickr and Facebook). Also Flickr and Facebook’s lightbox views are not as elegant as Google+.

It should also be noted that photos on various social networks generally do not get as many views on a weekend day as they do a weekday when everybody is working. It also seems that because this weekend is 4th of July weekend that there are less people around and online than usual.

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Google Plus

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Flickr

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Facebook

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on 500px

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Twitter

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  1. Sander says:

    What also causes Google+ to get more views (I think) is the fact that the rather strong image is displayed pretty big as is. Compared to twitter where it’s one click away, Flickr where it’s a small thumb (that in some cases causes some very unfortunate crops).

    Same thing with the square crop goes for 500px, the thing this image is about (the hatch) is composed in a way that’s not at all like the original image.

    The Google+ lightbox is currently hell if you’re trying to tag peoples faces using an Apple Magic Mouse by the way, if it only thinks you’re scrolling, your 10 pictures away from where you were trying to tag people.

  2. Seneschal says:

    Also, a lot of people follow you on all these different sites (I know I’m friends with you on all the sites). So where I could have commented on Google+ and saw the same photo on Flickr, I may have jut not commented on Flickr because I already did on Google+.

    Anyways. I think Google+ rocks them all. I know it’s been only a few days and it’s still in beta, but I’m already sick of Facebook and wish all of Facebook/Twitter/other friends would just get the hell over to Google+ and abandon everything else.

    I try no to should biased when I say this.

    O’Doyle RULES!

  3. Alan Jackson says:

    It is possible to find views for pictures on Google+ but it’s a little convoluted. Basically, you have to follow the posted pictured all the way into your Picasa Web albums. Select “Photos” from the new Google Bar to go to Picasa. There will be an album called, aptly, “Photos from posts”. Follow the picture until the Photo Info is on the right (Total of four clicks, starting with “Photos”.) On the lower left is the view total.

  4. Seneschal says:

    Also, it’s kind of too bad for 500px. They have a beautiful interface, and their ‘popular’ images filter the cream of the crop quite nicely. I just think Google+’s beautiful lightbox view will steal a lot of 500px’s thunder. Then there’s the whole convenience factor of Google+ that 500px just doesn’t have.

    The only way 500px will survive is via kick ass API’s. (there I said it). Ultimately, who cares if 500px is beautiful, it has to be convenient. Meh… I really liked 500px, I just don’t see myself using it with Google+ around. Sharing photos with others is all about convenience (because the average user is lazy… they won’t go to a different site to view photos, they want to see everything automatically appear in their Facebook (or Google+ stream)).

  5. Thomas Hawk says:

    Alan, I’m not sure this is working. I can’t find my way to this data, I don’t see any photo info on the right.

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Seneschal, I hear I need to watch Billy Madison. I’ll have to add that to my Netflix Queue. 😉

  7. DarrenKeith3 says:

    I’m finding that I have to get into the habit of posting my photographs on my site first and foremost(I’ve gotten lazy) and just share links to the social networks. Facebook is the worst because you can’t click on the image to see the full original image even if you do upload the image to your FB site.

    I wish I could see it on Google+ but I can’t because although I have 2 invites in the wings Google has closed it down for new invites until…I don’t know. That’s kinda foul…but that’s another post to be written.

    I’m really digging 500px. I love the community, I dig how you can upload your large photos…even the free version is pretty cool so when I invest in the paid version I know I’m really going to enjoy it.

    I have a Tumblr account and believe it or not Tumblr is pretty decent. Some of their themes are pretty cool when it comes to posting photographs.

    Truly digging your work and keep doing what you’re doing dude. 🙂


  8. Brock says:

    Thing is, at the moment there’s not much else to see/comment on with G+. The others have a wealth of updates competing for attention, and as G+ grows, it will be less easy to get people’s attention.

    (not just number of users – I follow more people on Google than Facebook or Twitter, but the feed is much more sparse)

  9. Great post on a very salient issue right now for social photogs. I tend to use 500px as a showcase of my best work and self-curate heavily for that site. I use flickr for everything and share links to twitter and facebook (mostly just twitter as I don’t like to clog up my facebook wall and hate being on facebook in general). With Google+ I may start sharing photos there as well to experiment and see what type of feedback I am getting.

    My ultimate goal is to sell prints and usage licensing for my photo work so really I want to try to funnel visitors to my wordpress website that is connected with my photoshelter e-commerce solution with shopping carts to make it easy for people to purchase my work.

    So whichever service and sharing combo gets me to that ultimate goal of exposure and follow-on sales then that is fine with me and forces me to be an early adopter at all things new on the web. 🙂

  10. Francisco says:

    If the photo you post in Google+ is actually in picasa then you can track all the stats using analytics. This link shows you how to setup your account

  11. Matt says:

    To see the view count, you have to click thru all the way to the actual picture.

    So, album – photos from posts
    -> then click on the post with the picture in it
    -> then the picture.

    It is the screen that enables you to comment on the picture, or tag people in picasa.

    On the left hand side, under the picture, there is a like button (? – should be changed to +1) and a view count.

  12. Nice article, but it may be a bit of an unfair example. You already have a ton of followers on various sites. What about the people who don’t already have thousands of eyes on their work? Might be interesting to start new accounts on these services and then see how the traffic and views compare. Just a thought.

  13. Denis says:

    The google+ is awesome IMO.
    Agree to someone here who wished his friends will move to it, I want this to happen too.

  14. You should have used Twitpic instead of the official way to show photos on Twitter. Twitpic counts the times that the picture is seen. So, I found it a little unfair that you don’t have real statistics of the picture shown on Twitter. Leaving that aside, I liked the comparison, it was interesting.

  15. John says:

    Also among other slightly flawed thoughts is that as you post so much to (especially) flickr, but I’d guess also the other networks, the lower number of offerings by you plays a large roll. It might be more fair to look at how many favs/comments/views etc you get in total on all pics offered on each network.

  16. Alastair Maw says:

    This is all very well, but G+ has an extremely skewed demographic currently. Your photo is competing with very few decent, public, arty shots on G+, vs thousands on the likes of Flickr. Any conclusions based on numbers are surely impossible to draw right now.

  17. SpionKopRed says:

    As a few before me have touched upon, I think the appeal of the thumbnail is of importance as this is what entices visitors to the full picture.

    The square thumbnail in your Flickr photostream doesn’t do The Hatch justice and there is obviously none at all on the Twitter stream. Without being able to see Google+ first hand yet, I’d say 500px does the best job of this.

    Although Facebook and Twitter have the ability to photoshare, I think the vast majority of people use these services to chat and share links, so have found better value in directing people to a central location such as Flickr or 500px.

    Great article though Thomas, thanks.

  18. Ranger 9 says:

    It will be interesting to see how much of your Google+ activity turns out to be nothing more than a social-media version of the Hawthorne Effect.

  19. bish s says:

    Just wanted to tell you that G+ pics and Picasa pics are one and the same. If you delete your pics and folders on one site it will also be gone from the other – forever! – so just take care while playing with the features.

  20. Akos Batorfi says:

    Hi, I just saw a piece that kind of scared me about google plus (and every other photo related piece of software from google:

    “By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

    “You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.”

    “You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.”

  21. Brian says:

    No one seems too concerned about how Google can use submitted photos according to their Terms of Service. According to the blog post I saw today on PhotoFocus ( users undertsand that:

    “By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

    “You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.”

    This makes me nervous and I quickly deleted all the photos I have on Google+ and Picasa.

  22. Fvm says:

    Nice experiment. You should post your pics at Gsick and check out the reaction.

  23. Tor says:

    very interesting experiment. I hope you do some more with different images to get more data points.

    With regard to Flickr I think it is easiest to get more views if you only post one images at a time. The photo on the top typically receives the most views. You often posts lots of photos at the same time and that makes it harder for one to stand out. To make it fair you should post the same number of photos to all five at the same time.

  24. Gordon Lycett says:

    Brilliant comparisons found from your tweets I follow. Cannot wait to get an invite/or it go live! Cheers

  25. Alex says:

    But, the question (for me) would be the Terms of Service, if you look at the Google + / Picasa TOS you might not like these terms, specially for a professional photographer who might at some point want to sell their work.

  26. Phillip says:

    i’m curious … is there any documented case by anyone ever of the TOS of any major photohosting site being an issue that deprived them of any profit?

  27. Minh Nguyen says:

    There is big different between G+, Tweeter, Facebook and 500px, Flickr G+, Tweeter, Facebook all are big social networking which are complicated. On other hand, Flickr and especially 500px are more focus on people who like to take photo, have same interest. Their understanding about photography is better and more professional. Therefore, it is not right to compare those. Different between quality and quantity.

  28. Stephen Dickson says:

    Minh, even if you only use G+ for photography and following photographers (which is easy enough to do) it absolutely smokes flickr.

  29. What do these stats compare to your own blog stats for the picture?

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  32. Ray says:

    Interesting info, thanx