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If Google's Really Proud Of Google+, It Should Share Some Real User Figures (marketingland.com)
114 points by AndrewWarner 1805 days ago | hide | past | web | 55 comments | favorite

So Google's argument is that because G+ is pervasively integrated, you can use it without being on plus.google.com. While this is technically correct[1]... they're still being evasive. Not everyone using G+-enabled Google products is using the G+ bonus features.

Rather than dancing around the single "user" number, Google could give more direct usage stats by breaking it down by feature. 20MM on plus.google.com, another 30MM sharing content onto G+, another 10MM clicking on G+ results in the normal Google SERPs, and so forth. It's still not a complete picture, but it's a hell of a lot better than "enabled G+ once, and is currently active on YouTube" that they're reporting now.

I am inclined to agree with the conspiracy theory that if these secondary stats were any good, we would be hearing about them.

[1] The best kind of correct!

"I am inclined to agree with the conspiracy theory that if these secondary stats were any good, we would be hearing about them."

I don't think it's that simple. Google publishes very few figures that have to do with its core profitability. For example, number of searches a day is not reported. I doubt it's because that figure isn't any good.

But in this case, Google is publishing numbers. Numbers that by their own admission aren't even trying to measure the right thing, and which seem to over-count that wrong thing anyways. Given that they're publishing any numbers at all, why are they publishing those numbers in place of more relevant ones?

After early-adopters, regular people will join only if their friends are already there.

Any user metric going upwards says "look, it's not a ghost town anymore" and drives future adoption.

Well, that's assuming people actually believe what Google. And even they believe what Google says, they don't have any compelling reason to switch from Facebook until their friends actually do switch.

What I mean is that even assuming that people believe google's statement of "it's not a ghost town anymore", they are probably not going to move until it actually stops being a ghost town.

That is because they have little to gain by announcing the number of searches because they're already way on top.

On the other hand, if G+ numbers were good, they would definitely announce it to increase the hype and get more people to check it out, out of curiosity.

Isn't Facebook doing the same thing and reporting active users as people who use the like button or post comments through their commenting system on 3rd party sites?

At one of Zuck's recent press calls, he said that they had taken a conscious decision to dial down on user numbers and instead talk about the amount of content that people were sharing.

Clicking the Like button falls definitely into the "actively uses Facebook" slot, but commenting on 3rd party sites is indeed a gray area. But I'd be surprised if there is a lot of people who use Facebook only that way. Anyone has any numbers that could shine light on this?

Does it really? Does everyone that sees a Like button actually understand what it does? I suspect not, and that a bunch of people click it just because they like the site and thing it looks fun to press. The same logic would say that anyone who hits a +1 button next to a search result is a Google+ user, which is equally silly.

I agree that numbers would be good here: how many Likes (or +1's) are hit by users without other recent activity?

First, Google has made moves to indicate that Google+ is not a finished product, or even a 1.0 release. Their recent overhaul shows that. Their lack of public APIs shows that.

Secondly, Google has made it pretty clear that Google+ does not stand on its own. The "plus" is in the name after "Google". It's Google, plus. Google+ is just a frontend, an entry point. It's the Yahoo landing site for all of Google's services. Youtube, Google Search, Picasa, they are the "plus" in Google+.

Google+ is not and never will be (and never wanted to be) a Facebook. Google wants it to be a grouping of their services in a way that's easy to consume and share. I'll admit I didn't read the entire article, I skimmed it because there are about a billion points being made in the fashion of a one-man argument.

The entire article could have been just this one sentence:

And yes, Google+ is indeed a layer that goes throughout Google properties.

It is illogical for the author to be irritated by reality. Taking Google+ by itself and comparing it to Facebook is equally illogical.

"Google has made moves to indicate that Google+ is not a finished product, or even a 1.0 release."

Honestly I hope Google destroys FB but let's stop apologizing for their half finished releases. G+ was released 9 months ago. For 6 months they've defaulted new g-mail users to sign up for it. This is not a beta, full stop.

If it's unfinished, if there are no APIs, if they broke a lot of the custom apps that were made for their struggling social service with their month 9 redesign, those aren't things you make excuses for. Those are things you list as negatives.

For any other company, sure. Google has a habit of pushing incomplete products out.

When Minecraft was first released to play, was that broken? Was Notch making excuses when he said "I'm still working on it"? Was it not continuously updated. And he charged money for that. Let's not forget how long GMail was in "beta". Google does betas. They push unfinished products out, for free, and update them continuously until they are finished. That's not a negative, that's Google being Google. Anyone who's been on the Internet for more than a year knows this is how they operate, and that most of the time it ends up being pretty cool.

The comparison with Minecraft is absurd. Google already has a whole ecosystem of well-rounded services. They have huge amounts of resources (both money and brains). They removed the "labs" feature by themselves and I take it as a sign that they don't want to push unfinished products to users this way. And when you force users who use Gmail to sign up for Google Plus, it's clearly not a beta product anymore, it's production ready because you are welcoming users by the truckload.

Don't use the "this service is beta" flag as an excuse for the flaws of Google+ and their (mostly horrible) redesigns of their core services. It's clearly not the old Google anymore.

I think the parent's point is that if that's how you're going to roll, it can count as a negative. There's a difference between breaking functionality, and not providing new features until it's ready.

Google Plus is not marketed as a beta product. With all the computer science-type smart folks at Google, I don't understand why big breakage is OK.

> They push unfinished products out, for free, and update them continuously until they are finished.

Well, it's not 'free', since the users are the product. And yes, some things get finished, other unfinished things like Wave just get cut at some point.

I don't understand why big breakage is OK.

Did they break their published APIs? They've only ever published a handful of frankly useless API calls. If it was someone just scraping unpublished routines, that's hardly Google's fault.

"Google+ is not and never will be (and never wanted to be) a Facebook"

Tell that to my new Google+ Cover Photo....

Even if all of your points are valid, you must admit they keep releasing numbers trying to show it's this super fast growing network, and yet you can see just by the number of sites that have a G+ button, that people are not even engaging in that level of activity. Pinterest on the other hand, which has actual user engagement is already starting to overtake Google on these little + buttons.

I knew Google+ wanted to be Facebook when I saw you could comment on posts.

Sure, but by their definition someone who visits Google+ once and then never does anything with Google except search for the rest of time still counts as an active Google+ user.

Those people simply aren't engaged in any kind of social layer, and yet Google is reporting them as if they are.

It might not be correct to measure Google+ as if it were a direct equivalent to Facebook, but that doesn't make the numbers they are releasing any less misleading.

If Google+ runs as deep as Google seems to imply it does, anyone using Google search while signed in is "using" Google+. I know when I do searches, I get results based on what people I know have been sharing. If I search for "putty", my top result is the PuTTY client, because lots of Google+ users have visited the page or liked it or shared it or something. I can see under the search result how many people +1'd it.

I'd consider that "using" Google+ the way I understand Google+ to work. You don't need to use it as a Facebook in order to experience the "plus" in Google+ (criticisms about SPYW aside).

Ok, but that definition still renders the numbers meaningless - it's just a box you happen to see forever onwards if you've ever said yes to one of their prominent enticements to find out what Google+ is.

If they told us how many Google+ members use those results, and how often they are picked in comparison to the non+ results, that would tell us something that justifies using that definition.

As it stands, the numbers only tell us how many people clicked through a very prominent ad.

The reality is that Google+ is both a standalone social network as well as a layer being added into both Google properties and sites across the web. It's not illogical that when Google gives out numbers talking about Google+ "users" that it would clarify those actually using the social network as opposed to those effectively accidentally using it because, you know, they logged into Gmail.

> Google+ is not and never will be (and never wanted to be) a Facebook

I perfectly agree and I have been saying that myself. But it's also true that Google+ does have a component which is comparable to Facebook. The main Google+ stream page, is not all of what Google+ is. But it is comparable to Facebook and other social networks.

And personally, I would love if Google gave me the real number of how many users are actually using that stream. How many are actively posting, etc.

Yep. I bet a hotpot dinner that this Google+ new home will aggregate all your content, including mails, and become the default home for Google, which would explain why currently the logo on Gmail is not a link anymore.

The logo doesn't do anything on several Google properties, not just gmail. And actually prior to this refresh it didn't do anything on G+ either, which annoyed me to no end.

They made this change a few weeks back and I honestly don't know why.

You make many good points. However, you failed to stick to the dominant narrative on HN, so expect some more downvotes. Google+ is a massive failure. Groupon is a ponzi scheme. Zynga is evil.

Me, yesterday:

"Seems to me that continuing to count everyone who gets an Android phone or signs up for Gmail as a G+ user just invites people to pile on and point out how underwhelming G+'s userbase has been to date."


You can defend G+ being a beta release or fundamentally different from facebook and twitter despite aping tons of FB and Twitter features. What you can't really defend imho is the continued exaggeration of G+'s userbase. I'd guess over half of the claimed G+ userbase has never touched it. Many have probably never heard of it.

If you are running a social network, then you publish how many people are actively doing stuff inside of it. Clearly, they are not doing this.

If you are running an identity service which provides more information for the targeting of advertisements, then you publish how many "enhanced" profiles you now have. What you are trying to do is reach the people who would like to do that kind of advertising. Every time that number grows, it's even more inviting to them.

G+ can succeed on their own terms even if nobody ever posts a single thing to it. If you've populated your profile with information, they have already succeeded.

This argument doesn't make sense. Google did profile pages long before Google+. And advertisers don't need your real name and baby pictures to target advertisements at you. (I personally see no value in this for any advertisers, but I'm speaking for myself and not Google.)

> And advertisers don't need your real name and baby pictures to target advertisements at you.

But being able to use data available to ascertain when you're about to have a baby, on the other hand is immensely valuable.

In fact, when I worked at Yahoo (left about 7 years ago), Yahoo had a major project to analyze clickstreams where one of the goals was to determine when you were near certain "life changes" such as buying a car, moving house... and having a baby. Because they result in lots of related spending, more so than most other periods of your life.

And being able to tie product recommendations to your friends is also immensely valuable, because social proof is one of the strongest drivers we have for making decisions. The closer you can get to implying that all of someones friends thinks your product is really cool, the easier the sale will get.

How could you possibly can think that knowing someone's actual real identity, which is publicly linked to mountains of personality and behavior and social connection details, is irrelevant to advertising?

> And advertisers don't need your real name and baby pictures

What a wonderful observation.

If you accept the characterization that Google's "free" software product users (us) are called Google's (eye balls) product for its clients (advertisers), the intriguing question is just which (new?) "client" of Google is interested in us as identified individuals.

Which client is interested in open source projects or self-driving cars?

Come on! Larry Page didn't sent a memo out tying your bonus to self driving cars.

Pretty much every company ties bonuses to the success of the company. Google is no different.

Things have changed from the days of being solely limited to the big rectangular state. Now, it's all fair game.

Besides, it was the Picasa-requiring-profiles thing which was going down when RNCH started. That Other Thing wasn't even ready for prime time at that point.

Google+ sent me some insight the other day. The 3 posts on Google+ that should interest me the most.

The topic of all three? That's right, you guessed it. Google+ itself.


Subscription counts in G+ are only a problem (to me) if:

A) They are too low for a user to engage anyone, which is simply untrue (I have lots of fun and engaging conversations - with strangers, often - on G+)

B) The product relies on a massive user base.

You'll have to ask Google about point B as far as profitability goes, but for me, point B does not apply because I don't care if my Aunt is on G+.

To me, G+ is a much nicer Twitter, and a way to organize and meta-tag my contacts. Nothing more. I use it every day and I am happy with it like that.

I would be very sad if G+ ever became like Facebook (which, in my very cynical opinion, is basically a 'happy birthday' rotary club & dating service).

Don't take me wrong. But I think your comment reaffirms what everyone and the author of the post says about Google+. That Google+ is quickly turning out to be an elitist network where people don't want what they perceive as 'common' people to be part of. And it's not cool anymore for them once it's adopted widely. It's not much very different from how iOS app users reacted when Instagram launched their Android app and saw a flood of Android users coming in to the network or how Quora early adopters complained about when they opened up from the private beta.

I use Google+ every couple of days, and I do see new stuff in my stream (mostly because I follow over 800 people) but lets stop beating around the bushes, Google+ is a failure if they wanted to make a dent in Facebook, it's a failure if they wanted the greater world population to care about it, and I don't see how Google can do anything about it now. Sure, just like Buzz, it has its regular users, but it's not what Google was hoping for close to a year after launch I'm sure.

I have to ask, what was the point of the post ?

It just looked like an endless rant deviating from the numbers that google was not publishing to the comparision with Facebook to the actual realization that G+ may not be a _ghost town_ and back to more google bashing.

-1 if I could, but I can not.

When Facebook says it has over 800 million active users, it really seems to mean people who came into Facebook and used the service in some way in a given month. They seem to be logged in and somehow actively using their accounts.

As I understand it, Facebook counts anyone who clicks a like button on any website as being an active user for the month too.

It wouldn't shock me if, as non-Facebook user, if they counted my visit to a public event page as me becoming active too.

No , they don't. Facebook is pretty serious about that:

>   •   Monthly Active Users (MAUs). We define a monthly active user as a registered Facebook user who logged in and visited Facebook through our website or a mobile device, or took an action to share content or activity with his or her Facebook friends or connections via a third-party website that is integrated with Facebook, in the last 30 days as of the date of measurement. MAUs are a measure of the size of our global active user community, which has grown substantially in the past several years.


" or took an action to share content or activity with his or her Facebook friends or connections via a third-party website that is integrated with Facebook"

Sounds like clicking a like button on a site.

Or making a comment on a web site that uses Facebook as their comment engine. That doesn't mean anything about whether they are visiting the Facebook site itself....

Yes clicking, not just viewing. Google counts visiting Youtube (while logged in) as using Google+. These are completely different metrics.

Not it isn't. If you visit https://www.facebook.com/media/video/ Facebook counts it. Google just hosts their videos on a different domain. It is still the same Google Account.

If I'm really proud of something I've done, I would think it's a cop-out to crow about my DAU or MAU to imply that it's good, especially if I'm Google and have the ability to drive hundreds of millions of inorganic users at it.

Google also has a funny way of counting "shares": if I have 1 million people in my circles and tell them to check a story, 1 million shares just happened ("A million items were shared"). Technically they may be right but it's not how I see it, a million shares would be when a million people share it, not merely get something pushed in their pages.

To answer some comments, I think they are plenty of ways Google can share meaningful, easy to understand stats about G+, if they wanted to.

As I see it 90% of Google+'s purpose is to get users to create profiles and then these popup within Google properties in the form of picture thumbnails when the user comments or uploads stuff, etc. Which is perfectly reasonable as almost all web apps now operate around user profiles (mostly Facebook's), what I find to be unreasonable however is the seemingly heightened intolerance some pundits have developed towards G+.

Did you read the article? Most of these pundits don't hate G+, or Google's business model here, or what they're doing with social.

They hate the PR nonsense that Google's feels is neccesary to abstract away the fact that they're tiny compared to Facebook.

I do too, it feels dishonest. You don't need to post the same numbers as Facebook. No one is expecting you to. So stop lying with statistics. It's like, Do No Evil is officially gone. Maybe a few white lies here and there never hurt anyone, right?

Facebook is also tiny next to Facebook.

Pundits have confused social networking with Facebook to the point where playing games or up voting articles is social networking because that's something that Facebook does. Nobody considers XBox live a social networking site, but people do the same things on Facebook and that counts.

Thanks. Yes, exactly.

I actually believe the google+ user count. do a search for cialis, viagra, etc. - it's spam central. but then again so is tumblr, twitter, etc. and no one gives them grief about calling these folks users.

Just as the only one sharing phone sales is Apple (one exception, Samsung and the Galaxy S2). Just as Apple is the only one sharing Tablet numbers.

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