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A Message to the Media and Bloggers That Continue to Harp on G+ Usage

We are all aware that its very trendy to compare usage between the social sites these days, but as you keep illustrating, "trendy" and "meaningful" are not always the same. And while we're all aware some of you just write just to produce something without concern for meaning, it still wouldn't hurt for you to take at least a few considerations into account. For starters:

<1> You can stop telling us that G+ hasn't caught up to Facebook. We're not idiots. But stop acting like anyone expected it would after 8 months of existence. Implying that it should and then blaming it for falling short is insulting. While that approach may be intended to rile up the masses, it really only serves to diminish your credibility among those of us who choose to give it more than a passing thought.

<2> Before going on and on about how G+ is doing, how about figuring out at least some semblance of an objective measuring stick. You don't seem to have any objective measuring stick at all. We get the feeling that no matter what G+ does, some of you will have a reason to say its failing. It's been reported over the last month that G+ unique visits have reached just over half of Twitter unique visits...after only 8 months of existence. Are we really supposed to believe that is a sign of failure? What exactly would you need to see inside of 8 months to consider G+ a success thus far? The impression is that you'd simply raise the bar on what is needed to be able to suit your own agenda. Now maybe that's not true, but your lack of any objective measuring stick sure makes it seem so.

<3> It's a little ridiculous that you continue to think your usage assessments based on G+ public posts represent total usage. I know less and less people who post publicly on Facebook these days, yet I don't hear any of you using this barometer to assess its network. In fact, if you looked only at the public posts from many people's FB circle of friends, many of them would appear to be a ghost town too, but we know that's not reality. Do you really expect us to believe that no one uses G+ to share privately, especially when many of us do? Posting publicly on a social site might mean something, but its a ridiculously poor method to determine the success or failure of any social network.

<4> What's with all the usage statistics with the fine print about not including Smart Phone usage? Really? You post about trends and the future of social yet you don't think leaving out Smart Phone usage significantly skews your assessment. Wow. Google owns the leading Smart Phone operating system and that's just an afterthought? OK we get it, maybe you don't have access to that information, but most honest folks refrain from making judgments when they don't have all the facts. So what's your reason?

<5> All your drum beating about G+ usage that dismisses usage across all Google products just shows you lack vision, or at least that you don't seem to want to hear what Google has been telling everyone for the last 8 months. Google is in the slow process of combining all its services into one, and that significantly impacts the future of G+. So while you overlook this and are intent on only analyzing present day G+ usage to make a point, you completely miss the big picture. Would you ever consider reporting on the usage of Facebook games and Facebook messaging separately? Of course not. Yet you can't seem to grasp that usage across Google products like Gmail and Youtube will be meshed together with G+ in the not too distant future. You won't even be able to determine the difference, because they will be inseparable. That's not inside knowledge from Google, that's what they have been telling us from the moment G+ began...only you had to listen. Yet here you are reporting that Google is misleading you because it has begun to report usage across its products where G+ implementation has begun, a metric Google knows is what matters in the long run. Good grief. If you want to report on something meaningful, understand that although there is a difference today between logging in to any of the array of Google products, in the future there won't be, and G+ will be the hub of all of them. So while you think your assessment of G+ usage today matters, the real barometer for comparison will be Google usage. Continue to overlook this at your own peril because people will only treat your content seriously for so long.

<6> Your reporting on inactive G+ users to drive home a point is both tiresome and lacking. Its tiresome because you don't use this barometer to assess any other network (are we to believe no one is inactive on Twitter or Facebook?) But really its lacking because it misses the core strategy that Google has for G+. G+ is not a stand alone product. In fact, Google only needs to have steady growth in total G+ users to establish long term success, regardless of activity. Why? Well consider this example for a moment. If you were a leading manufacturer of GPS devices and wanted to assess your future, you'd obviously be concerned that Smart Phones come with GPS devises built right in. But would it matter less to you if 60% of Smart Phone owners didn't use those devices? It shouldn't, because the potential danger is that one day people might think,"Hey, I'm carrying around this phone all day anyway, maybe it makes sense to use this GPS." So consider then for a moment what it means as Google converts to using G+ as the profile for ALL its products, that means a G+ log-in is your log-in for Gmail, Youtube, Android, etc. Believe it, because Google is planning on it, and most importantly it means that every single user of any Google product will have a G+ account whether its used for social or not. So while you don't think the danger of every Android user and Youtube user having a G+ account matters, the reality is one day people may think, "Hey, I'm using my Google account for all this other stuff, maybe it makes sense to use it to share." This is why total account users, even if they are inactive, matter, something you seem to continuously overlook.

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50 comments
 
You should toss in a gif of a cute/silly cat at the end here, so it would reach "What's Hot", because this was seriously a great post that everyone should read. Especially those bloggers/journalist that takes one glance at G+, and know everything about it.
 
Great post! I laughed out loud several times!!! Off to share it with the rest of G+ users - all three of them. (wink)
 
+Tiffiney Cowan careful you don't hit them all at same time - otherwise there maybe a flourish of activity and What's Hot wouldn't know what to do ;)
 
This is an absolutely incredible post! I could not agree more. I think many people are missing the boat with Google+ and it will only be a matter of time before people start to realize it's potential. I heard an interesting quote the other day, something along the lines of "It is easier to build a "social" network on top of a dominant search engine than a search engine on top of a social network." While I think Google was obviously late to the game in terms of social presence online and online identity (not including Orkurt, but who uses that?), I think they will eventually establish a solid presence with G+. Also, I don't think Google's aim is to dominate the social graph, Facebook already has that crown; Google would rather dominate the shared interest graph, one that combines both your social and interest graphs. I don't know if anyone will ever think of Facebook as a place to go "search" for content, and that is where they may falter. Check out this post by +Gideon Rosenblatt; its very good. https://plus.google.com/u/0/105103058358743760661/posts/fxp3viNzg9d
 
+Marc Razia Good post, but if you could edit it to number the points you made it would be much easier to discuss it.
I find ´_It's a little ridiculous that you continue to think your usage assessments based on G+ public posts represent total usage. I know less and less people who post publicly on Facebook these days, yet I don't hear any of you using this barometer to assess its network. In fact, if you looked only at the public posts from many people's FB circle of friends, many of them would appear to be a ghost town too, but we know that's not reality. Do you really expect us to believe that no one uses G+ to share privately, especially when many of us do? Posting publicly on a social site might mean something, but its a ridiculously poor method to determine the success or failure of any social network.. the best and most significant part_´ but i would have preferred to say I agree with point x and actually say something about it ;)
 
+Max Huijgen Max, noted and added. Thanks for the tip.

To all others, thanks for the feedback. Greatly appreciated.
 
+Stian Fiko They should add a Facebook share button. :-) +Marc Razia Great points! Unfortunately, those who it is directed at won't read it. Would be cool to organize social media experiment and get g+ users to post these points (one by one) to the comment streams of those press articles.
 
Great post +Marc Razia. I'm still trying to figure out what all this FB envy is about anyway. I think as +Keith Bloemendaal points out, the huge benefit of G+ that no one is going to be able to ignore is search results.
 
+Douglas E Rice Good points, but I don't know many "Grandpas and Grandmas" I classify as early adopters of anything tech related. I think that expectation might fall into point 1. G+ is 8 months old, expecting grand parents to be flooding the place is a tad premature. That's a good assessment of today but not necessarily a good one of the future.
 
That's a good point. Facebook's public incarnation was initially used by the young and the early adopters. It took a while before people started complaining that they didn't know what to do when they got friend requests from their parents, and I'm sure it was even longer before the grandparents started moving in.
 
Bookmarked for whenever somebody comes with the "inactivity"-claim.
 
I think +Vic Gundotra is awesome, but it seems like he could be even more aggressive with squashing some of the misconceptions the media perpetuates about G+. On what planet does going from 0 to 100+ million users equate with failure? Meanwhile, companies like Dropbox are media darlings for reaching 45 million users in 5 years time.
 
Here is a simple histogram created by counting the month names in a search for public posts containing both the words "upon" and "thus" (https://plus.google.com/s/upon%20thus/posts in Chrome incognito mode)

15 Jul ***********
19 Aug ***************
29 Sep *************************
33 Oct *****************************
46 Nov ******************************************
48 Dec ********************************************
58 Jan ******************************************************
43 Feb ***************************************
23 Mar (incompete current month)
 
Right on, +Marc Razia - Nailed it!
It's probably just as well that the great mass of humanity that Google are hoping to attract to the platform don't read tech blogs :D
 
Well written +Marc Razia. G+ did in 8 months for Google what Apple, Microsoft, facebook and twitter combined in any way are never going to achieve. Congratulations +Vic Gundotra I think your previous employer is impressed.
 
Wonderful post! Thank you for alerting me to it! Going to share :-)
 
Bravo! (Hands clapping)
 
Brilliant! I just wish I was able to articulate this in the moment when talking to noobs about G+. I'm still surprised at how many people haven't even heard of it. When that tide turns it might be the definitive moment for G+.
 
Nice summary. I'd also add that some people don't want to post what kind of sandwich they had for lunch unless it's really interesting or unusual, so they mostly use the +Google+ stream as a news reader.

If someone starts creating a ton of posts on some pop culture icon or silly cat pictures, I can move them to a special circle where that slider at the top is moved toward the left. That seems a lot more humane than "unfriending" someone.
 
+Douglas E Rice Actually, yes, I see seniors here all the time, and I see them posting pics of their grandchildren and pictures taken by their grandchildren. If you were a part of (what I believe to be) the largest community on G+, photography, you'd see them too. My mom wouldn't go near FB, but she LOVES Google+ and so do many others of her age group (70+).
 
+Patrice Christian isn´t that part of the problem of G+? The demographics are completely skewed to an older generation. 40+ seems to describe the majority.
When Google lowered the age limit to 13 effectively nothing happened.
 
+Max Huijgen Why is that a problem? I came here for an experience I couldn't find on FB. Perhaps it's because I'm in that "older" generation that you're referring to. I don't give a rat's ass what anyone near the age of 13 has to say.
 
My data shows the average age of G+ users to be 40.04, and that number has changed little since September when I started tracking it.
 
It´s not a problem for you or me +Patrice Christian but for Google. It´s not the hot place it should have been and the integration with the youtube girls (and boys) stalled completely.
Don´t forget that end of september Google want to get all the YT users with large followings on board. No doubt to integrate the services but with very different demographics that won´t work.
 
+Max Huijgen I guess we're not part of what's "hot" anymore according to some. Although I find it interesting that advertising lately seems noticeably geared toward my age group - the ones who actually have the money to buy all the crap they're selling, and I thought that was what it was all about. Not the reason I use a social network of course, but it seems to be what the social networks are aiming for - build an audience they can advertise to. Or am I way off here?
 
I think iPhones became hot beause old fogies like us started using them. You know the people who can afford them and pay for all the stuff those cool young kinds buy.
 
+Max Huijgen I'm not so sure what you deem a "problem for Google" is in fact so. The user base went from 40 million in Q3, 90 million in Q4, and 170 million in Q1 2012. G+ hasn't reached a level yet where the bulk of users leave it open on their computers all day long, but that's only a problem when its prematurely compared to Facebook usage, which was part of the point of the original post. I think its been an expectantly bumpy road for G+ integration, but I believe G+ is more than thrilled that its as large as it already is inside of its first year.
 
I'm not sure it's so much of an "age" divide as a divide among early adopters/those who are really into social media, versus the more casual users. I'm a 58 year-old grandmother and I was here on Day 2. I vastly prefer G+ to other social media because of the user base here. People are more willing to have thoughtful discussions than on any other platform. I've seen more stunning photography and had more meaningful conversations here.
 
I get the data from a couple of informal surveys I created, +Marc Razia. You can read all about them in the About section of my profile page, but here are the direct links:

The results of what I gathered since Jan 3rd: http://goo.gl/8ojso

The new survey I started on Jan 3rd http://goo.gl/RLVPB

The original post/ survey that I started in September. https://plus.google.com/102618047349606277909/posts/b2BZ9XeMHMJ

The data doesn't track perfectly between the two, but it's pretty darn close,
 
+Marc Jansen What a great idea. Very cool. One thing I was wondering though is if you factored in the propensity to answer this type of comment among age groups. What I mean is, how do you rule out the possibility that it may just be older people who are willing to answer a survey like this whereby younger folks might just be less inclined?

I'm not suggesting your poll is inaccurate, but I was instantly reminded of a funny story I read. A particular political party conducted a study in the 1940s to get an idea of how wealthy their registered users were. Thus they did a phone poll and were pleasantly surprised that members of their party were well above average in terms of income and wealth. What they overlooked was that at the time, only the wealthy owned phones, thus their sampling was badly skewed and obviously represented nothing useful at all.

Again, I'm not saying that about your study at all, I just thought the story was funny and appropriate : )
 
+Marc Razia So true, but then I'm reminded of a comment I just happened to see the other day that blew my mind. It was on this post by Thomas Hawk: http://goo.gl/eT9cn about photographer circles that he has posted, very popular among our community. A kid popped in, right in the middle of these comments to say "Google+ is for kids, not old guys who take pictures like you...." At first I thought it was some bad joke, but I looked at the profile, and it looks like a legit profile for a girl of about 12 or 13, if that. The comment was ignored, but it kept nagging at me for some reason (see, I'm still thinking about it now) because it just seemed so incredibly clueless and blind, being in the middle of what was obviously a very popular post by a hugely popular member of the very active photography community. I feel like those so-called media bloggers are about as astute as that little girl when they talk about G+. 
 
Yep, what these media bloggers are saying is basically irrelevant. We are the relevant ones. It would be nice though if G+ would start realizing this in their social search algorithm. 
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