Come On Google, Show Us Some Real Google+ User Numbers Already


Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that things aren't looking so great for Google+. According to data from comScore, Google+'s users spend just about 3 minutes per month on the site. On Facebook, that number is closer to six or seven hours per month. Google itself, however, has never provided anybody with any useful data about the service and – at worst – is just using deliberately misleading information to provide the press with big numbers that look good but are absolutely meaningless.

100 Million "Active" Users?

In January, for example the company's CEO Larry Page said that the site had 90 million users at that time and that "+users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly." That, however, was a pretty misleading statement. While it may sound that Page was saying that 60% of Google+ users come back to Google+ every day, his argument was simply that 60% of those users who signed up for Google+ also use any other Google+ service on a daily basis. Those numbers said absolutely nothing about the engagement Google+ is seeing from its users.

Today, Google's VP for engineering Vic Gundotra – in what is clearly a reaction to the WSJ piece – talked to the New York Times' Nick Bilton and once again used the same kind of tactic. "On a daily basis, 50 million people who have created a Google Plus account actively use the company’s Google Plus-enhanced products, Mr. Gundotra said. Over a 30-day period, he said, that number is 100 million active users." Google+, of course, is now part of virtually every other Google product, including search, which most of the company's users probably use on a daily basis without ever trying to actively engage with the company's social network.

Nice, Meaningless Numbers

Google is obviously trying to paint a nice picture here by using large numbers that, at the end of the day, say nothing about Google+ and how engaged its users are. Maybe things are great at Google+ and it has a huge, highly active community (though most of us aren't seeing it in our own accounts). The problem with this is that unless Google provides us with any concrete data, it just looks as if the company has something to hide.

1:56 pm

Study: Facebook Isn’t the Echo Chamber You Might Expect


When it comes to social networks, one argument that is often raised against them is that they encapsulate their users in a safe network of friends that keeps out information that may go against the users’ belief system. Social networking users, after all, tend to friend like-minded users. The reality, though, say Facebook own researchers, isn’t quite as dramatic. Indeed, they argue, we tend to get more information on Facebook from distant friends than close friends and are actually more likely to see information that comes from distant friends than from our inner circle of close friends. The researchers conclude that “online social networks actually increase the spread of novel information and diverse viewpoints.”

Weak ties strong ties

Looking at a Facebook dataset from 2010, the research team noticed that the social network’s users do, as expected, are more likely to share links and post from people they have strong ties with. That’s pretty much what one would expect, given that the people we are close friends with are likely to share at least a large subset of our interests and believes. Facebook’s research also shows that people with strong ties tend to visit the same websites, for example, while those we aren’t that close to tend to visit different sites and hence get their news and other items they share on Facebook from different sites as well.

Here is where things diverge from the standard echo chamber thinking, though. When it comes to people we have weak ties to, we are actually a good bit more likely to re-share their content with our own group of friends. Given that most people also have significantly more distant friends than close friends (the researchers assume about a 10-1 ratio), we actually tend to get more information on Facebook from our distant friends than our close friends. “Weak ties,” the researchers argue, “have the greatest potential to expose their friends to information that they would not have otherwise discovered.”

9:52 am

Survey: 1 Out of 3 Smartphone Users Would Rather Give Up Chocolate Than Their Phones


A third of smartphone owners would rather give up chocolate than their devices and 39% of U.S. consumers with smartphones have used their phones in the bathroom. These are some of the more interesting results of a survey that Google just released. It’s no secret that we tend to use our phones to get online (81%) while watching TV (33%), but in this survey Google was more interested in the role these devices play while users are out shopping and looking for local information.

It’s All About Local Info

According to Google, 90% of smartphone searches result in an action, which Google defines along the lines of purchasing something or visiting a business. Most of the time (88%), this action is taken within a day. While 90% sounds like a large number, it does ring true, especially given that most mobile searches are indeed action-oriented and likely focused on getting to a very specific place. This number makes even more sense when we take into account that the survey also found that 95% of smartphone users regularly use their phones to look up local information.

Interestingly, Google did not look into the differences between Android and iPhone users (most likely because the survey is focused on the company’s mobile ad platform, which is available for both devices).

Here are a few additional data points from Google’s survey: [list]

  • 79% of smartphone consumers use their phones to help with shopping, from comparing prices, finding more product info to locating a retailer
  • 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase, whether online, in-store, or on their phones
  • 70% use their smartphones while in the store, reflecting varied purchase paths that often begin online or on their phones and brings consumers to the store
  • 24% recommended a brand or product to others as a result of a smartphone search
  • 93% of smartphone owners use their smartphones while at home [/list]

One set of numbers of the survey I don’t fully buy, though, is that “half of those who see a mobile ad take action, with 35% visiting a website and 49% making a purchase.” These numbers just seem too high – especially given what we know about how surfers on the Web generally react to ads.

10:55 am