SXSW loves a feisty discussion, and the good-natured grilling that Guy Kawasaki gave Google’s head of social business, Vic Gundotra, around Google+ ignited the conference.
Guy Kawasaki admits he’s a bit of a Google+ fanboy (and even has a book out on the subject) but that didn’t stop him from quizzing Vic about lack of user engagement and negative feedback from influencers.
Gundotra says the genesis for Google+ was bringing together the range of services Google offers across search, images, video, personal relationships and more. He explained it’s been misunderstood because people have been trying to define it as something it’s not. “Our definition of Google+ is Google 2.0. It used to be products were siloed; now we know your name, know your circles, and what services you use.” The power of this service is it is optimised so YouTube will show videos from people in your circles, or Gmail will have emails from people in your circles.
Kawasaki directly challenged Gundotra to counter criticism of Google+, “What do you say when people say ‘it’s a ghost town, no-one answered me on circles,’ where is that coming from?”
The answer is – make sure you are using it correctly. Gundotra pointed out that you can choose private or public, and so Google+ is as good for a whisper as for a shout. “The majority of content is shared privately to circles. You might visit a profile and say nothing is being shared – actually that could be nothing is being shared to you. I mostly post to my family; it has revolutionised my relationship with my family.”
In a sideswipe at Facebook ( or the “social competitor”), Gundotra also stressed that Google doesn’t want to serve ads into people’s personal time, but at the right time which he defined as at the “moment of commercial intent” (what Google calls search). An example would be when you are looking for a restaurant in a location like California’s Napa Valley (near Google’s HQ) and can see a friend has +1ed it. In short he argued Google is focused on combining the best of social and the best of commercial intent
Kawasaki took the G-man to task on metrics, contrasting the long time people spend on Facebook with the shorter time spent on G+. Gundotra was bullish and explained how while up until two months ago Google talked about signed up users (90m in January) now it quotes daily and monthly users. He quoted 100m “30-day actives” (people who visit at least once in 30 days and 50m “1-day actives” – making it the fastest growing service Google has ever launched.
The repeated message from Google seemed to be: This is early days, and the service is evolving all the time, so stay tuned and see how we’ll make this work. Judging by the interest from the SXSW crowds, people seem happy to do just that.