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How Guy Kawasaki’s Chat with Vic Gundotra Changed My Thinking about Google+

March 11, 2012

The Austin Convention Center ballroom is huge and it was filled almost to capacity when Vic Gundotra, VP of Social Business at Google [G+ profile] and host, Guy Kawasaki [G+ profile], author and CEO of Alltop took the stage on Friday, March 9th, 2012 for a fireside Chat about Google+ (part of SxSW Interactive 2012).

Neither the host not the audience were going to let Vic get away with carefully prepared formal statements about Google’s strategy towards the social network and how it was going to affect Google’s search algorithms. Of course Guy Kawasaki made sure of that by challenging Vic to uncomfortable questions and pushing him to give strategy insights that were not previously revealed.

You can read many reviews of the fireside chat done from the online privacy perspective as well as the strategy perspective. What I can offer here is my interpretation of where Google is heading with their social media strategy which certainly improved following Vic’s chat.


It’s interesting that Vic did not use the word “social network” at all when describing Google+. Instead, he described it as a social layer across all of Google services. As a user of Google+as well as multiple other social networks it was helpful to understand that Google was not out there to replace Facebook or any other social network. What they are after is much larger than that and can be described best as an ambient layer of social data following you while you go about accomplishing everyday tasks online such as looking up an address in Google Maps, finding a local plumber to fix your sink through Google Places or choosing a life insurance based on a socially annotated ad. That social data is there to help you make better decisions in terms of how you consume content, buy products online, find places to eat and much more. That’s an attractive value proposition that goes far beyond offering you yet another social network.


During the fire chat Vic Gundotra contrasted the “old Google” where services were soloed with the “new Google” where products are interlinked, able to share data including the social layer that makes all applications more customized for the user based on his/her social behavior and the behavior of his/her friends.


Vic referenced a stat that Google released in February when it was announced that Google+ hit 90 million registered users. During the SXSWi fire chat Vic announced a change in a way Google was going to provide Google+ user stats that would be more in line with how other social networks report on their user activity. Vic revealed that Google+ has 100 million registered users who performed an activity (logging onto Google+, watching a YouTube video, etc. ) as a result of their Google+  circle recommendations at least once a month. The name Vic used for that stat was “monthly actives.” He also revealed there were 50 million Google+ daily actives. Vic refused to comment on the number of active users that simply go into Google+ to perform an activity such as posting a comment or sharing content. I now understand why Google avoids using that stat as their KPI (however it would make it much easier to compare Google+ with Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter). Google is not after measuring activity on the Google+ network, but is more interested in measuring activity across all Google services that has been influenced by social data accumulated in Google+


There was a heated exchange between Guy and Vic re. the timeline for opening Google+ API to developers so that users could finally utilize 3rd party apps such as Hootsuite for daily Google+ posting and commenting rather than going to Google+ directly to do so. Guy Kawasaki argued that lack of open API is actually hurting Google in terms of number of active users. That did not seem to sway Vic who stood firm by his belief that Google is just not ready to release public API because there is still a very significant amount of changes that Google is working on which would greatly affect developers forced to continuously update their apps. I happen to disagree with this view. The era of constant change that we live in requires developers of all apps and services on line, social or otherwise, to accept change as the new normal and their apps or offerings being in constant  beta release. I don’t buy Vic Gundotra’s explanation and would appreciate more emphasis on user experience coming from Google in this case.


Vic and Guy spent a fair amount of time discussing the habits of Google+ users. Vic emphasized the versatility of Google+ circles for segmented sharing. One of Vic’s statements really stuck a cord with me “Google is as good for a whisper as it is for a shout.” Don’t assume that Google+ users are not active on Google+ only because they have not posted anything publicly. Over 50% of Google+ users shared content privately with their circles. It is catch-22 though in terms of making it easy for new users to find quality Google+ members who participate without being faced with multiple profiles where no posts were being shared. This is definitely an issue for Google that they will need to resolve to help make new user experience more satisfying.


To make the conversation complete Guy Kawasaki had to raise the topic of Google+ impacting Google’s search algorithms. To answer this question Vic did not reveal anything we did not know already, namely the details behind “Search plus Your World” that changes the way Google serves search results by adding content your Google+ circles identified as valuable by hitting the “+1” button. Vic did allude to additional changes in the future, but was not willing to give any details keeping us once again in suspense.

A few kudos I’d like to give. Firstly,  I need to recognize the host, Guy Kawasaki who utilized Google+ to crowd-source questions for Gundortra’s fire chat. Nicely done!

Another big thank-you goes to to Ogilvy whose visual artist worked throughout the session on putting together this awesome looking visual notes of Vic’s firechat. You can see this note and other Ogilvy Notes from SXSWi 2012  courtesy of

Google+ Chat with Vic Gundotra (SXSWi 2012) – Ogilvy Notes

Vic Gundotra SXSW 2012 fire chat (1 hr.) has been recorded as a Google+ Hangout and now available on YouTube

Finally, Guy Kawasaki has an ebook about Google+ titled “What the Plus” Have you read the ebook? What do you think?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2012 4:40 am

    This is a really good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise information… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!


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