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3 Minutes: It Does Matter

One of the surprising responses to my "Fixing the Google+ Engagement Problem" slides from yesterday was the still strong reaction to using ComScore's finding that, on average people spend just 3 minutes a month on Google+.

The responses ranged from "let's just move on" to "it's not apples to apple" to those numbers aren't accurate.

The numbers are accurate, or at least they're accurate enough. If they weren't, Google would have clearly and irrefutably shown how they were wrong. They did not. There are probably nits you can make with ComScore's methodology, but it's not going to be off the orders of magnitude needed to make 3 minutes closer to 7 hours, which was the amount of time people spend on Facebook.

The point of this post is to address the "it's not apples to apples" issue. First, let's be even more clear about the difference in the density of the Facebook and Google+ social graphs - even clearer than I was in my slides yesterday. That's the attached slide. Here's the way to read it: 10% of Facebook users have less than 10 friends, whereas 40% of Google+ users have less than 10 people circling them.

I'm grateful to +Johan Horak for pointing me to these very valuable +CircleCount statistics for the Google+ numbers:

Here is where I got the comparable Facebook numbers:

A few people have noted that it's not apples to apples to compare the two networks because Facebook is over 8 years old, while Google+ is less than a year old.

I'm sure there is some truth to the idea, and I'm willing to bet that the average number of friends on Facebook has grown in recent years as the service has become more mainstream and as it has loosened the requirement that connections need to be bilateral (i.e. I must agree that you are my friend). But that average friend number hasn't grown nearly as much as you might think.

Even in its early years, network density - as measured by the average number of friends was much higher on Facebook than it currently is on Google+.

Why? Because of the rollout strategy that Facebook followed. By keeping the service initially exclusive, and focused on just the Ivy League schools in the US, Facebook was able to give its early adopters the impression that everyone who mattered to them was already on Facebook.

Don't believe me? Then just look at this very detailed study of Facebook adoption at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from the fall of 2005 - less than a year after the rollout of Facebook. 85% of the incoming freshman that year had Facebook accounts and that number expanded to 94% by the end of the first semester.

And as for the typical size of each persons's social graph:
The average number of friends a freshman on the Facebook had on day one was 46, and at the end of the semester, he or she had 111 friends.

More: ➜

The whole point here is that the very reason Facebook succeeded is because its users were able to jump on and very quickly have a great experience connecting with people they already had a lot in common with (the same school). This was there from the get-go, built right into the very structure of the service.

It didn't come about gradually over time, like some of us keeping thinking might eventually happen with Google+ with enough time.

No. That success was designed into the service and into the rollout strategy of Facebook. And that is very different from simply throwing the doors open to the world and saying "here you go - have at it". Yes, there was an initial, closed period here on G+, but honestly, the Facebook rollout much more socially savvy.

Here's what I'm not saying - I'm not saying that Google has that same option today. In fact, that was the whole point of the slides yesterday. It's in a completely different situation now. And Google needs a different strategy if it is going to build the same kinds of engagement that came so relatively easy to Facebook 8 years ago.

When new users come to Google+ and have a hard time breaking past 50 followers, and those 50 followers are themselves wondering about the value of shifting their energies here, it's hard to justify putting a lot of energy into the network. That is a real barrier - especially when compared to Facebook where those same few people are likely to already be friends, with whom they share much in common.

We need to face this reality head on. Facebook didn't grow to its current dominance by eventually becoming addictive. It started out addictive, by being really smart about how to quickly build dense, distributed connections and lots and lots of engagement around them.

I'm assuming that Google is well aware of this, and I'm hoping they are hard at work at this same goal, but just with a different set of strategies that we just can't quite see yet.

I really, really hope Google succeeds. I've invested deeply here. I really like this network more than the other ones. But there is no manifest destiny at work here. Understanding the problem correctly is the first step to building the right strategy, and if I were Google right now I would be deeply focused on building a more distributed and dense network for rich engagement - and I would do that by focusing like crazy on helping to connect people with shared interests.
Michael Snyder's profile photoDivine Vapors's profile photoGideon Rosenblatt's profile photoEilif H's profile photo
Dan O
All true... but the REAL problem is that Google management acts like engineers and listens only to itself.

Take it or leave it as it is my friends!
They are Advertisers now .. .. Google doesn't give a fuck .. Soon the White Space is gonna be filled with Advertisements .. Yippiee
BTW it's time to switch from Google Search too .. .. Try the new
It's finally out of beta and comes with integration from Google+, Facebook, Twitter and many more networks .. ..
This is a fantastic rant +Gideon Rosenblatt, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. As you know, we've both been part of the voices raised on every occassion toward Google pleading with them to change how they bring new users into the service, making ourselves available to help them come up with a crowd-sourced way of getting people immediately into vibrant interest communities here. The Suggested Users List is obvious fail in this regard.
This sums it up for me:
“The ComScore data does come with caveats. Rather than coming directly from the sites themselves, it is estimated via a user sample who have a toolbar installed on their desktop or laptop PCs - and so does not record visits to sites made by people using tablets such as the iPad, or from mobile phones. Facebook and Twitter have significant use via mobile phones. It is unclear how much use Google+ gets from mobile phones; it is now built into Android phones, which have dominant market share worldwide, and is available on Apple's iOS, the second best-selling smartphone OS.” (from )
I'd still like to see a group of Google Ambassadors who, more or less, go around and look at new users and post and share circles and, essentially, help them feel included.
they aren't playing the same game. there are more players on the field during a yankee game than during a beech volleyball game, so what
meg they exist, though unofficially.
+Gideon Rosenblatt, This is the first time that I clearly understood why it was so difficult for my peers and friends to invest time in Google+ beyond the usual "don't have time for another platform."
When Google+ unrolled last June, it was generally perceived a premature birth.
I decided to get onboard and play with it. I was relatively new to social media and here was a new sandbox to play in.
I'm not most people and I continue to invest a lot of time exploring and adapting with the G+ evolution.
Being social shouldn't be this complicated.
Google+ won't survive by being the "not Facebook" network, but by becoming an integral part of everyone's social network.
Presently choosing to go on Google+ is like choosing to go to the library instead of the Pub.
You can discover a lot of great things at the library, but you can have more fun at the Pub.
As you say, Google has to make a more compelling case for climbing on board just as libraries have evolved to being more than book museums.
Like you, I hope Google gets it and gives attention to the Plusser experience. Adopting some of your "engagement" suggestions would go a long way to both differentiating it from the other guy, and building a larger community.
+Ray Hiltz Personally I have much more fun at the library than at a pub, but I think the majority of people think the opposite. (:
They really shot themselves in the foot actually. By promoting a ton of people with lots of followers, who are guaranteed to not interact back, those new people that get recommendations to follow people with 100,000 followers are going to be sore disappointed when they find out that there is no interest in them. Not even in the dialogues that ensue under these heavy hitters’ posts. +Gideon Rosenblatt is absolutely right that G+’s highest priority is the interest network and how to engage people.

When entering G+, a new person should get a message like [and here, even if Google doesn’t yet know what G+ is, they should pretend they know] “G+ is an interest network. What are you interested in? We already have suggestions based on your previous searches. Here are others who search the same thing.”

Now that I write that, I think of how many times I’ve bought a second or even third book on Amazon because I saw the little message at the bottom that said, “others who bought that book also purchased these others.” That’s what G+ needs.
But * why* do we assume Google+ needs growth and numbers? Some plants grow quickly. Other slowly. Each with their own purpose.
Great idea, +Jacob Dix I really hope someone at Google+ is reading this comment stream.
+Cliff Roth Well, actually, I've been doing it, but it would make a terrific job for me! I am so inspired to help people generally, but something about showing a person how cool Google Plus can be gives me a lift.
Super post +Gideon Rosenblatt - Fantastic to pull together some metrics to back up discussions.

The thing to note with the apples & pears is that FB followers may be very happy with having 20 - 100 friends as the nature of these relationships is based in real life (friends, family & work colleagues) where stronger bonds exist. +Patrick Sharpe had posted about this yesterday. And with these strong relation ties then the exit barriers to leaving FB are higher, even if you just have 20 friends. G+ needs more friends & family on board to build tighter bonds & higher exit barriers.
I have Google's original advice on how to start Google Plussing on my "About" page and when I see a newbie struggling, I first send them there, ask them what they're into, then send them to the daily circles and suggest they just start with one. Read like a magazine at first (Guy Kawasaki is fascinating and must have help to post all that stuff, but I keep him in a circle by himself to dip into for entertainment and enchantment!) Then start seeing whose posts you resonate to and add them to a circle like, "Maybe Friends?" And that my experience has been that when you start to do that, you do start making friends, NEW friends.
+Jacob Dix A fantastic suggestion! Amazon's competitive advantage has been the information it has on people and cleverly using that to make suggestions. Google have a lot of info too and should do the same to recommend users (maybe a weekly email of suggestions like Amazon does).

In my FriendFeed days I really enjoyed the interaction with people at a peer level. I don't recall any particular hierarchy of celebs but people got popular based on what they posted and how they interacted. It felt like a community. Fast forward now and many of these folks are now well know Internet celebs but they got there through their own steam.
+Colin Walker So we met on twitter but not on FriendFeed and now we interact more on G+ :)
I believe most everyone agrees that the main fail is in the SUL algo. This is a G+ management and code issue, not really a people issue. It will either get fixed or it won't as we get what we get when we get it. In the meantime new adopters continue to stumble onto threads like this and wonder about their choices. As +David Amerland suggests in his re-post, the brand engagement on G+ is steadily up! See:
I bring my clients on to G+ and they are amazed at the quick ramp-up and level of almost emmediate engagement, then they get to read the posts of those with "local knowledge" and they begin to worry. I don't know if the voices here help or hinder in perhaps self-fulfillment? Hard call...
I'm surprised, +Gideon Rosenblatt, that neither you nor any of your commenters here have brought up Pinterest, a successful social network that is built around connecting people through their interests. (Heck interest is even contained within the name.) I don't have a Pinterest account, and their service doesn't suit me because my preferred means of expression is through words, not pictures. That said, I do know that Pinterest users announce their interests by creating a board, which other users then link to and comment upon.

At this point on G+, every post is a species unto itself. I can't make a political post, for example, much less group together a series of posts about politics or combine them into a circle of posts about politics with several other people. Thus the stream becomes a passage of undifferentiated, random, unrelated posts. Worse, in the event of reshares, I may see the identical post flow by three or four times. And let's say I decide to look at the posts from one person: again the posts are random, presented in reverse chronological order. As most people have varied interests, even directing a newcomer to a single person may prove confusing if not downright frustrating.

To my taste, G+ is the best social network. But it has a long way to go before best is better than tolerable.
+Gideon Rosenblatt I have no idea what Google's private strategy is for Google+, but I suspect, if I may be blunt, that + is a product of the experimental culture of Google. Googlers don't look at a problem that exists now and say, "How can we duplicate the success of someone else in this area right now?" They're thinking of what social networking will be years from now.

It won't be the world that Facebook wants it to be. They're not going to control the appification process that is converting more and more content into software for various app stores, markets, or the web itself. Social is going to be a feature of everything, not one monolithic entity, a thing that is native to every single platform. Think about World of Warcraft, or Second Life, or Xbox Live... these are social platforms built atop a gaming environment. To say there's very little interoperability between any of them and Facebook is an understatement... they're their own little walled gardens.

Facebook's biggest vulnerability is mobile, they've said so themselves, and unfortunately for them, I would guess that over the next couple of years, 90+% of user's Facebook time will be on mobile devices. Bear in mind that to get Android where it is today, they had to run Android at a loss in 2010, and have probably made more revenue from the iPhone. Now we can see that Android is absolutely worth it. The social network of the future isn't a site or an app, its the gateway to those things. Before long Android will be one huge portal to Google+, in fact it's basically there already in ICS. Facebook's app strategy is laudable, but I'd wager a guess that it's largely a losing proposition for them, a stopgap measure to try to make sure the next Instagram doesn't get past them. Google's got the platform, it's got a mobile advertising system that's ever evolving, and they'll be on the cutting edge of the "Internet of Things", which is where the valuable social data of the future lay.

In the meantime, Google will run this thing at a loss if they have to, settling for incrimental user growth and buzz, along with some blitszkrieg actions like securing the rights to be the official social network of some major events, and just slip more and more social stuff natively into the system, and quietly sucking up that valuable data.
+Eli Fennell yep Google has long term strategies and this is good so. And I wanted to mention, that Google is a search company. So searching and filtering is their most prominent competence and this leads to some points:

1. search will get better over time and it will be much easier to find the post, pages and people you are interested in
2. filtering will get much better. Spam filtering is already good and will get better but social filtering and interest filtering will be integrated.

If you compare the Google Search with the search in G+, then it is still much different in quality.

But with all signals that we give Google+, this will get better over time. Maybe this will create another discussion about a filter bubble and this is nessessary, but on the other hand, the Search in G+ is already not very constant but is always changing slightly. It is a realtime search integrating lots of signals and the ranking is not good enough for us to recognise, that we could use a search channel instead of the stream or the circle stream to following our interests. If I want to see, what friends or likeminded people are writing, I could easily build a circle and read just the circle.

Search and filtering is the way of engagement. Think Google Reader, Google Currents and Prospective Search in G+
Very nicely put +Gideon Rosenblatt I hope "the powers to be" read your suggestions and allow themselves to be helped out. One interesting point that has been raised by +Jaana Nyström is also the locality as interest. Why shall people from Finland not be presented with a list of finish users to begin with? Being such an international company why does Google do not realize that every region is unique, and that some of us in Europe do not know or care about half of the "famous people" they suggest.
And last but not least congratulations on a great set of slides.
+Eli Fennell great quote "The social network of the future isn't a site or an app, its the gateway to those things."

+Thomas Power thanks much once again for mentioning my name.

Google+ will - imho - have both the advantage and the disadvantage of being a computer program, a "Matrix" if you will.

i like to think of google as a friend who gets better and better in understanding what i want, through the search words that i type.
only recently i understood that this is exactly what is being built into the algorithm. and yes, i love it !

the con to this pro is ofcourse that i am being confirmed rather than being helped. my status quo is who i am, for an algorithm needs to take into account my growth potential in order to surprise me and get me to exceed beyond myself.

true friends don't agree with me.
true friends seek that inside me which is beyond form.
they will always question the form that i chose,
they will always ask me: "is that really you?"

GooglePlus will win as soon as this need for expansion is met by her algorithms, be it with or without human intervention.

My 2 cents,
Very good and relevant post +Gideon Rosenblatt your slide show was great. To add to all the other comments of making suggestions of people to circle , at least on the same continent near a person's area of residence would be a good way to start.
We have to ask ourselves how can people feel more connected here on G+ ? Giving them a great experience is a good start, by making it fun. I find that family & friends do not understand G+
G+ can be the platform for (bear with me on this) something that can be a social movement of change , to make the world a better place through engagement of interests based on what a user has defined as their interest, (i.e. , clean energy, ways to help reduce our carbon footprint, solar energies to reduce our dependency on foreign oil ). The G+ambassadors is probably the best way to do this, and have them spread out through each state, and country. There are enough social networks for all to be successful, G+ needs it's fair share by listening and making the recommended changes. Together this community can build the most powerful platform, we have all been waiting for it, and yes it can be done. Are we ready for change ? I AM
So how can we make it more fun too you ask ? How about creating the schemes through ambassadors and hanging out in real life promoting the interest based activities that a user has defined, a way of reaching out to community, to be involved in community, or simply just meeting and greeting , hanging out, once a month or ? check the hilarious schemer lists for ideas, idk.......and see where it goes.
+Thomas Power, not to answer for +Alexander Becker, but yep, I'm pretty sure he's just marking this to come back to later...

Thank you for your thoughts. And I do hope that +Louis Gray was able to tune into those slides and all the great comments there. It was heartening to see +Natalie Villalobos just jump on with a comment. So she saw them. I'm sure it's tough to wade through the torrent of user comments and kibitzing that must hit these folks daily.

This one feels pretty core though.
+Shaker Cherukuri - yes, averages can be deceiving, which is why you need to look at distributions, which is what that chart is.

+Cliff Roth, they absolutely are playing the same game: aggregating social signals to improve their ability to draw in advertising dollars.

The strategies are very different, the assets they bring are very different. But if either one of them fails to generate a critical mass of social signals, their goose is cooked...unless either one of them is able to fundamentally flip their business model away from ad revenues.
Let's pretend that the study is not bogus and try to figure out what it means, since average, as always, leads to one or more fallacies.

+Alex Schleber, at the time, calculated the numbers using the Pareto principle, which holds true in systems like this one — "Take 20% of the 20% and 80% of 80%, and you get about 64/4. Run the recursion one more time and you get about a rounded 51/1."

"...that depends on your definition of "most people here". If you count every user that ever logs in in a given month, then the average could well be that.

You have to assume an 80/20 Principle distribution, which is also recursive. So 20% of users will have 80% of the minutes in the system per month, by recursion, 1% will have about 50% (rounding a bit to keep the math simple).

If we assume 60M U.S. users with any monthly activity (generous), then they would spend a total of 180M minutes if the 3 min average were true. And the top 1% of those would spend about 50% = 90M, divided by 600k users = 150 minutes on average per user per month. That would be 2.5 hours.

If you recurse it one more time, you could get 120k of the top 0.2% or so of users, spending 72M hours, or 600 Minutes (= 10 hours) per user per month.

Do you see how this works? So it could well be that Comscore is off in its estimate, but probably not by an order of magnitude. Let's say the average was really 10 minutes. Would that make you happier about their findings?

That would mean that the 120,000 top active U.S. users use it for 30 hours or more per month in that case. Keep in mind that that sample of the 500 or so people that YOU are following on here may be among the even more active subset of those 120,000. That's actually extremely likely.

But that doesn't mean that the average for the entire system is suddenly going to be 10 hours per month per user."

And that matches the pattern we all recognize over time. It's the intensity which makes the difference, and the quality of content and recurring connections, and the rate of dynamically expanding networks.

Thank you +Gideon Rosenblatt, for explaining the ROEs to +Thomas Power ;)
+Gideon Rosenblatt As I commented on your post yesterday, I very much agree with you that G+ has a long way to go in not merely attracting new users but keeping those new users interested. As I pointed out yesterday, Google needs to effectively "teach" new users that G+ is not FB or Twitter. It is something different. Yes, it is an "interest" graph as you have so eloquently posted about before. But it is also a place where people of differing interests can come together and in a (usually) civilized manner discuss those differing interests. It is also a place to "meet" people of all stripes -- regardless of their interests. It is also a place where artists, photographers, writers, etc. can share their art. etc. etc. etc.
The point I'm trying to make is that whatever Google+ initially may have intended to be (which I suspect was simply some sort of answer to FB), it is today different things to different people. I agree 100% with +Eli Fennell that G+ was and is still an experiment. It is still evolving and no one really knows where it will go.
Very few of my friends have moved over from FB to G+. But I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. The majority of people who are active on FB have no interest whatsoever in sharing with "strangers" or having a discussion about politics or art. The only reason they are on FB is to connect with their friends. For those people, there is no better place than FB because everyone they know is there. For the ones who have been cajoled into "joining" G+ but who really have no interest in real social networking (which I think is what G+ is), G+ is just a bad version of FB. Let's face it, G+ will never attract them.
What I agree with you fully about is the fact that G+ sorely needs to change the way it presents itself to the world. As you and others have said many times, G+ is NOT a place to connect with your friends, it is a way to connect with NEW friends. And as you've also said, Google needs to educate new users on HOW to do that because making new friends is never as easy or as intuitive as talking with your existing friends. You have made some very good suggestions as have many people on this and your post yesterday as to how this can be done. We have a long way to go on that.

As to the point I made about the 3 minute vs 7 hr. comparison -- I will unfortunately need to take a break and comment later. (yes, Google, I'm afraid I will lose my comment if I don't send it now!)
+Shaker Cherukuri - the point I'm making is that when you have lots of people without many followers, it makes sense that they don't engage much. And the numbers above show some of that distribution of followers. Lots of people with little engagement gives you a big denominator, which explains how the average time could be as low as ComScore says it is - even if it doesn't make sense to those of us who do spend a lot of time here. But I'm not arguing with you on this. If you want to believe it's meaningless, go ahead.

+Eileen O'Duffy, thanks. I appreciate your point about the issue with mobile devices, but there's no reason to assume that mobile would skew things one way or the other - at this point - and certainly not enough to meaningfully get the 3 minute average anywhere near 7 hours. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn all get plenty of mobile access:
Keep in mind that Google has been inflating their user numbers by assigning G+ accounts to new Google users.
+Shaker Cherukuri - fair, but the real numbers don't support that:
As Zynga said in its SEC filing, the top 2 percent of loyal players are crucial to its success, as those players are “whales,” or the company’s biggest spenders. They play three times more than the average player. The top 2 percent play Zynga games for 120 minutes per day, compared to 40 minutes for an average player. That means that 5 million paying players are supporting Zynga’s gaming business.
+Eli Fennell and +Siegfried Hirsch - great points. I have no doubt that Google is aiming for a horizon line that is fundamentally different than what many of us assume. They have a fundamentally different base of assets than Facebook - and to be clear, I think those assets are far, far superior. That's why I'm personally investing my time here and not there. I just see this engagement issue as something that if not addressed soon, could seriously hamper their ability to ge to that longer-term vision.

The other thing I must confess to not knowing enough about is the Google network of independent developers and how on board they are with G+. Ultimately, that will depend on where the G+ API goes and how quickly it develops. I do have to say that Facebook's Open Graph has some very interesting approaches that, if I were developing services right now, I would be very interested in:
I refuse to believe that the "average" user spends 7+ hours a day on Facebook. First of all, those numbers count users whose log-in is carried across to other sites with Facebook integration, even when they're not really "using Facebook" at the time. Secondly, as has been pointed out, there are far too many outliers, people who spend way way way more than the average amount time playing Farmville all day and night or whatever, who in any fair analysis of "average" user time would have to be factored out.
The reason the 3 minutes v. 7 hrs comparison is not accurate and should not be perpetuated is as follows. As +Shaker Cherukuri points out, it appears that a lot of the numbers relating to time on FB relate to games. Playing a game for several hours a day is simply not "engagement" on the network. Second, although I have no specific knowledge about this, I believe that if you are simply "logged on" to FB as many people are perpetually, this counts as time spent on FB - again, this is not engagement. Third, as +Eli Fennell has pointed out, the time spent on the notification bar on G+ (which I myself use very often) where I am actually in GMail or some other service is also not counted.
But the real reason the "average" is so low, you are correct, is that there are many users who simply sign up, are either disappointed or don't know what to do, give up and never come back. These "users" are what brings the average way down. Admittedly, that is a problem which needs to be addressed (as you and others have pointed out).

HOWEVER, most G+ users -- the ones who are real users will tell you that their problem is that they are on G+ way too much, not too little. I hear the 3 min. v. 7 hr "story" repeated over and over again when I know it is not true. While it might even be technically accurate, It simply does not reflect the reality of most real G+ users.

And, to my point, the problem with perpetuating the 3 min v. 7 hr "story" -- one that rings wildly true to the average real G+ user -- is that we do a disservice to ourselves as G+ users and to G+ itself because it just gives more fodder to the naysayers.

G+ is evolving. It is certainly not perfect but it is, I believe, the best thing out there for real networking (i.e., as opposed to keeping in contact with existing friends).
+Eli Fennell - yeah, that would be too high - way too high. They're talking about 7 hours per month, not day, actually, and I'd have to go back and read the actual research (which I actually did do when it came out), but I'm pretty sure what they measured was just visits to the domain.

+Shaker Cherukuri, yes, but where are you getting all those numbers from? It's just assumptions on assumptions with no real data...maybe there is data to support what you're saying, if so, great. But if not, why is it that you are so adamantly refusing even the possibility that Facebook might just be doing a better job of engaging a higher percentage of its base than G+ is? I just can't understand why this possibility just seems so impossible to you...

OK - sorry, I need to turn my attention to other great comments that are coming up in this thread.
+Gideon Rosenblatt Seven hours a month... right, of course. Facebook is engaging more users, no doubt. It's still probably being weighted heavily by outliers, even at that. As to your point comparing engagement at this point in Facebook's history versus Google+, I still think that's not the best comparison, a better comparison is Twitter, about which articles were written galore that said the same things... not enough engagement, people sign up and never come back, etc... A few factors conspired to keep Twitter alive. All social networks are dependent on a "breaking point"... for Facebook it was when Facebook growth achieved a critical mass as people invited friends, family, etc... For Twitter i think it had more to do with getting attention in the media for breaking news, trends, Adonis DNA celebrity meltdowns, etc... Apple integration with iOS didn't hurt, either. Luckily for Google, they've got time and money to burn waiting for Google+ to have its moment.
+Anita Law - I still have to disagree with you about the 3 minute thing. It may well give fodder to the naysayers, that is true. But I believe it's important that we treat data as a diagnostic device. We may not like hearing that we have high cholesterol, but it's important information to know; especially if we plan on doing something about it.

On your earlier point, yes, I think you are onto something very important there. Setting expectations is so very important. In marketing theory, the whole notion of consumer dissonance centers on what happens when a customer's actual experience falls short of their expectations. People really don't know what to expect here. And I actually understand the problem that Google may be having here. My guess is that they have a really big vision for what this will be one day - much bigger than just a service for connecting us with new people. So they are probably unwilling to pigeonhole themselves as just that in their marketing. But I do think that, as you have said above, educating new users on how to use the network in this way is absolutely essential.

Thanks for your thoughts here.
+Anita Law You are absolutely right, and so is +Gideon Rosenblatt, that the biggest problem is educating users. Okay, so Twitter didn't really do that either, but Twitter is something we only need one of. Google needs to do a better job of accepting that Google+ is about an interest graph, or perhaps as +Guy Kawasaki might say, a "passion graph". They shouldn't leave it to the grassroots and the tech nerds to evangelize it as this.
+Leland LeCuyer - just want to bring us back to your point, which is the question of Pinterest. Yes, you are absolutely right. "Interest" is built right into their name. I do have an account on Pinterest, but I can't say that I spend a ton of time up there. Clearly though, a lot of other people are. Part of it is, no doubt, the focus on images, but I'm sure part of it is also the focus on sharing interests.

Your points about the lack of ability to aggregate our interests into the Google+ equivalent of a Pinterest Board is right on. The funny thing is that a third party - +CircleCount, has had to come along and do it for Google+.

Here's my favorites page for "Google+" related posts, for example:

If you haven't tried this out yet, you can get to it here:

If you use Chrome, I highly recommend installing the CircleCount extension. If you already have it, you'll need to refresh it for the Favorites functionality to show up.

But to your point, +Leland LeCuyer - why isn't Google all over this? Pinterest is growing like crazy. I'm afraid that Google may have interpreted that market interest as purely an images thing (which partly explains some of their redesign choices) rather than also an interest thing.
Great stuff +Gideon Rosenblatt. A good grasp of the Google+ accessibility gap, wasn't pondering that until now. Thanks for the enlightenment.
Interesting post. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, "...those 50 followers are themselves wondering about the value of shifting their energies here." I know that was certainly an issue for me jumping on board. Now that I'm here and using Google+ though I find it substantially more stimulating than either Facebook or Twitter. The overall tone here is one of intelligent discussion, and I find that incredibly refreshing. I think, as with all successful businesses, Google needs to find what differentiates its service from the others mentioned and really play to it. In this case I think hangouts have become a defining aspect of Google+, and its really interesting the traction they have gotten in the political arena. I think nurturing this could help bring quite a few "fence sitters" in out of pure curiosity, but you're right when you say that google needs to find a way to retain those people or it will all be for naught. On a bit of a tangent, I think it was a poor decision in naming the service "Google+". Many of the people I know have a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that it is a standalone service, and instead think it is merely a premium version of the Google they already use.
+Tisha Scurich - I really like where you're going with your comment. I guess, at the end of the day, what I really am hoping fo with Google+ is a gigantic, online "open-space" technology conference.
For those not familiar with open-space:

Thinking of G+ as a place where we can come to meet others interested in changing the world, now that is an inspiring vision for this place. Though I write a lot these days about Google+, social media, etc., my real interest is in changing the nature of business, and I've already found a number of new kindred spirits to that end here on G+ - and hope to find many more as the service reaches beyond the techie, photographer core it has today...
+Gideon Rosenblatt If I were Google, I would build in the functionality of Replies and More. That simple act would increase engagement a lot...especially coupled with the new functionality of Gmail. Every day I get up and wonder, "How can it be that Replies and More isn't built in?" Every night I go to sleep wondering, "Why did they make the black bars around pictures that aren't 500 pixels wide?" :-)
+Gideon Rosenblatt not to beat a dead horse but my point is that paying attention to data is good as long as the data is accurate. My point is that the 3 min "data" gives a somewhat misleading impression of what is really going on and therefore should not be given credit as if it is "fact".
Thanks for stopping by, +Guy Kawasaki. I think the thing I'm most interested in asking you is, given that you've been pushing the "sharing passions" meme, which I'm a big fan of by the way, what kind of receptivity to this positioning do you think there is at Google? Not to put you on the spot or anything ;-).

P.S. installed Replies and More and am having some issues getting it going right now, but it looks cool. Tks.
+Gideon Rosenblatt Honestly, I don't know how receptive they are to the Passions positioning. At Apple, I was on the other side: the market positioned Macintosh as a desktop publishing machine. After a while, we figured out that we should flow with what's going. Eventually, I believe Google will embrace the Passions positioning if they haven't already.

The 5Ps of social media:


It's that simple in my book...
+Guy Kawasaki stated: If I were Google, I would build in the functionality of Replies and More. That simple act would increase engagement a lot...especially coupled with the new functionality of Gmail.

I am uncertain what is meant here. Replies to posts are available. This post by +Gideon Rosenblatt is a reply to the previous one. It is manually done, though I agree a button would be nice to simply do follow up or response posts.

As for new functionality in gmail, I haven't seen it. Sure, our circles look like labels in gmail. And G+ individuals are in our contacts, but that's it. If gmail were really integrated, circles would act just like labels do there, i.e., I could for starters drag and drop them over a sender in gmail, to automatically circle them in G+.

More importantly, one of the major aspects of gmail is its label + filter system. When clicking on a G+ circle in gmail, I can't see the search criteria for that circle. I don't see, for example: is:[label]

It's blank. Which makes filtering for G+ circles in gmail impossible. If it was possible, I would be able to turn email back on, filter everything into the garbage, excepting those G+ posts from the search criteria: circle:work

Until that is implemented, (and I've written of it here:, G+ circles in email is simply superficial.
I think you've missed the real point of the 'apples to apples' argument. The statistics you've shown aren't necessarily wrong, they're just not relevant. The initial draw of Facebook was to connect with friends and family. It was about creating a personal profile and sharing that profile with people you already knew at some point. Maybe you lost touch, but you had to know a fairly decent amount of information about the people you 'friended' otherwise you simply wouldn't be able to find their profile. Yes, it's since grown to the point where people are adding strangers, but that's really only because they've run out of personal connections. And by having connections considered 'friends' there was a psychological reason why people naturally wanted everyone they knew to be there. In 2006 when I joined Facebook, some of my friends were there but many were not. But it didn't take long because those people were constantly being ask why they weren't there, by everyone in their lives.

But Google+ isn't about your profile - it's about sharing actual information. That's the real reason that the connections are referred to as 'followers'. It's not about having as many as possible; it's about connecting with people that have information you are actually interested in reading. On Google+ it's not surprising that 50% of users have less than 100 followers. Most people don't have a consistent stream of the kind of information that people here are looking for, so most people will never as many followers as they have 'friends' on Facebook. And for the same reason, most people won't be following as many people as they were on Facebook.

The difference is the quality of the information. Your post, and my response would never have happened on Facebook. Facebook gave people a fast and easy way to share their lives with the world. Google+ gives people a fast and easy way to have meaningful conversations with the world.
+Colin Walker I completely agree with you. Google+ absolutely has the potential to create a much wider range of connections between people. But since there isn't that psychological impetus to make formal connections, people have to rely on their own content as a means to "promote" themselves. My point was simply that most people don't have a steady stream of the kind of content that will attract strangers. It's easy to get all your high school buddied to 'friend' you when the content that they want to see is what you've been doing with your life since school ended. But that's not why your high school buddies are on Google+. They are here to find out what kind of real, interesting, information about the world you have to share. And for the most part they don't even need to follow you to find out. Back in the day, Facebook required a reciprocal connection just to see anything on another person's profile. I myself actually added a few people based on their name and then determined after that they were the wrong person. Google+ is far more open. Most people with decent content seem to be sharing publicly. Which means I can look through their content and decide if I want to follow them. But I don't have to follow them - I can just keep coming back manually.

The problem with Google+ isn't the inactive accounts - those are just a symptom. The problem is that people keep expecting to find their friends, and when they don't they walk away - leaving an inactive account. People need to realize that Google+ isn't a Facebook alternative. It isn't about promoting yourself. It's about sharing information and having conversations that people are actually interested in.

And in that sense, Google+ is working perfectly. If you want proof, look at what is happening right now. My day is just starting and I have had more "conversation" with you than anyone else in my life this morning. But I'm not following you. If we were on Facebook, this interaction would never have happened. And that is why looking at "Followers" as a gauge for user interaction on Google+ is misguided. Those numbers completely ignore our interaction here.
What I would like to see from Google is data which segregates those people whose accounts are inactive. In other words, data on those people who are actually engaged with G+ and how many minutes or hours they actually spend on G+. This is obviously data only Google itself can provide.
Interesting history there on Apple, +Guy Kawasaki. Thanks for sharing that. As a complete aside related to desktop publishing reference, our conference table at the org I ran until recently was the table around which Aldus PageMaker was conceived/built. Pretty cool.

Hope you're right about Google coming around on this. It's good to have you out there framing things with your visibility, by the way.
If any of you didn't read, +Colin Walker's comment above because it was on the longer side, then I recommend going back and digging into it. It's good.

I have no idea what internal dynamics were within Google that drove it to build G+. I do know that to get it right this time, they hired some of the brightest folks (like Chris Messina and Joseph Smarr) who were out there thinking about this stuff in a very interesting way. I've also heard that there was some sort of rallying cry around "sharing is broken on the web" and that it was in Google's interest to fix it. And clearly, Larry Page is focusing everyone like crazy on it, as both social layer and social service.

Much of the way you're describing it, Colin, rings true to me though. And in the end, it may be that there's just so much mass and momentum being thrown at this thing that it may just succeed without an externalized vision. But the only catch with all this is that this service is actually co-created with users. If the general vibe amongst the bulk of consumers is that this place "doesn't make sense" or is "hard to figure out" or is "just not that interesting" - well, then Google loses its opportunity to build the machine that conducts all those social signals back to its other (ad-funded) businesses.

Here's the other, related, point. From a network perspective, you may not actually need all that many people out there providing signals for it to still be useful to search. I'm still toying with this point myself, to make sure I really believe it. 20 million active and relatively influential users might just be enough to provide it. But the problem with this that influential users will not continue to remain here, if the active base continues to remain in the 20-40 million person range.
+Colin Walker My understanding is that the "3 min per month" figure used by com.score refers only visits to the G+ site. It is also my understanding that this figure does not account for engagement on the "notification" drop down on other Google pages (as I am doing at this moment).
The point I am making is that there is no question in my mind that level of use by G+ users (as opposed to people who signed up but never actually used it -- who I suspect are a LOT of people) is much much higher than an "average" of 3 minutes a month since this "average" obviously clocks in millions of people as a zero. And my point to +Gideon Rosenblatt was that continuing to cite this "data" as if it were fact -- especially in the context of a G+ user-engagement commentary -- is not helpful because it doesn't reflect reality.
The reality I see is that the users who are engaged are VERY engaged. I would like to see data which segregates actual users from those who are only "signed up" but never use it. That would be a far more accurate measure of user engagement than the con.score figure and might actually tell us something we can use in trying to come up with ways to improve engagement in general.
+Anita Law Good point about the notification drop down, if that's true. I just spent the last 15 minutes reading the latest comments in this thread in the drop down.

+Michael Turner I'm not sure that I agree that "most people don't have a steady stream of the kind of content that will attract strangers." Everyone has something that they're interested in and that they know a lot about. Even if it's finding shoe-shopping bargains or the latest celebrity gossip, there will be people interested in it. Most people are an expert in something. I think that's the point of +Gideon Rosenblatt's suggestion for using interests to connect people and fix the engagement problem.
Really like your comparison +Ray Hiltz of library vs Pub. Google+ may simply, ultimately not cater to the masses.
+Gideon Rosenblatt The whole point here is that the very reason Facebook succeeded is because its users were able to jump on and very quickly have a great experience connecting with people they already had a lot in common with (the same school). The other point is THEY HAD THE TIME!!!! They were in college, not at work.

Now, are you aware that Google is (sort of) under-the-radar rolling out Google Apps EDU for free to universities everywhere? Millions of students are using Google Apps. Universities are in love with Google for taking away the whole need for servers (and lowering their IT costs). (Even a National Laboratory is using Google Apps.) What do you think these students are going to use when they start their own businesses?

My prediction is that Google Plus is going to be more and more incorporated into the Google Apps environment so that it's just there: your pictures, these essays, etc. right on the "One Bar" where all these students' documents and sites and all the rest of their apps are. And I think it's the smart way to go because you already are inside the Google "atmosphere" and you'd have to switch out and sign into FB to get that FB experience back.

I know I said this earlier (and maybe on this same thread (it's getting pretty long), but kids grow up. Google Plus may be disappointing some people for whatever the "white space" controversy was about (I don't "get" that.) But, like you, I'm committed: Google's not going anywhere. They're just going to keep growing. And there will be a sudden spurt in around two/three years when all these university kids start their own companies. Where can you get (practically) free international meeting spaces for ten people that is "up" 99.9% of the time? Not on FB! And where the documents you need to talk about are right there in front of you! Not on FB.
Really good point about the integration with all the collaboration services, +Meg Tufano. And here's where this ties back into some of what +Colin Walker was saying and even what +Shaker Cherukuri was saying. When "social" transforms from a dedicated service into a pervasive layer for computing, it becomes harder and harder to say what counts for "engagement." Hence, people playing Zynga on Facebook's social layer (or platform) are engaging with services that make use of that social layer, but do so in ways that go well beyond what we traditionally might think of us social network engagement. The same will most likely eventually be true for the coming social layer for Google Docs. For newly minted college grads, that social layer to collaboration tools will feel as natural as cut and paste. They will spend a ton of time interacting with the G+ social layer, and we will need to think about that engagement in a very different way than we do today, when we're thinking about engagement on a social service, not a social layer.
Somehow it is ironical that a great but very theoretical meta-post on the lack of engagement on Google+ gets 117 extensive and thoughtful comments in a few hours :-)
I think +Meg Tufano has hit the nail on the head. Besides the "always on" integration of Google+ when you're in the Google environment, don't forget that a lot of organizations block Facebook access at work, but they aren't blocking Google. That gives Google an advantage among professionals.
Don't forget that Google+ is part of Google Apps. Huge advantage to Google!
I just wanted to add to my comment from yesterday. While it certainly would be possible for businesses to block access to the URL without blocking the rest of Google, the integration with the rest of Google that +Meg Tufano and others have mentioned means that it would be impossible for businesses to completely block Google+ without blocking other Google services or Google apps, and the more tightly integrated it is, the more difficult it will be to block.

Further, that integration has the potential to make this a hugely useful tool for professional collaboration (even more than it already is) so I think (hope) that businesses will see it as an asset, whereas many businesses see Facebook as a time & bandwidth waster at best, and a security risk at worst. I think business & professional collaboration is where Google+ will really find its initial success. It's already a much better tool for professional collaboration and connections than LinkedIn.
By the way, just following up to the above point from Guy; the "Replies and More" extension is now working...and I have to say that it is a great addition to the G+ experience if you're using Chrome.
I don't have an opinion on all the numbers or their meaning, but I do appreciate the significant amount of effort you put into this post and it's parent. Nice.
I dunno to me it would seem the easiest way of doing this would be to some kind or #directory that would add that "#"'d phrase to a universal keyword database.... something akin to ODP (open directory project) or even the original yahoo directory project .

I remember back when they first started making the net graphical and we first started exploring, that was how we all first started finding sites one the net...

The same concept could be applied to g+ in terms of building community and helping others find like minded people to talk with and make friends with. TO make it a bit more PLAIN create a TAG DATABASE.

With the amount of data google has amased it could pick "#"d terms that have been used a certain amount of times and relate it to a interest category. then add that to the same place where u ask us to add friends. Then simply add a save this search button next to each, and add those SAVED searches to their profiles. I know saving the search is already implemented (it puts it in the explore tab)

I know this was a bit long winded but what I am really trying to get across is this: -v

There is no way that I am seeing currently that allows you to view a comprehensive directory of all those terms and a way of saving it IN ONE PLACE.
+Divine Vapors thanks - - interesting point. I think that much of what you're talking about is going to happen here on G+, but in the slightly different form of the "knowledge graph." It may or may not be surfaced as a directory, but will definitely be there working behind search.

For more context on how our searches are curating what amounts to a tag database, see the comments in this thread from +Jeff Jockisch:

Or this roundup piece by +Ivan Dimitrijević:

Or this piece by me on the knowledge graph turning the web into a more app-like experience:
Eilif H
Another great post +Gideon Rosenblatt !
I'm really sharing your hopes that this place will catch on moving forward, and I find myself pushing a couple of friends and colleagues to make some nice "collections" and start engaging here on a daily basis :)
For "non-tech" people I think a selling point could be the sharing of photos.

And I love how the various interests can be cultivated here as independent "worlds".. :)
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