In dieser Woche machte comScore damit Schlagzeilen, dass Google+ von den aktiven Nutzern im Schnitt nur 3 Minuten pro Monat genutzt wird. Der folgende Beitrag zeigt auf, welche fragwürdigen Methoden comScore generell verwendet und welche wichtigen Kriterien bei der Messung der G+-Nutzung außer acht gelassen wurden.
Jedem sollte klar sein, wie fragwürdig insb. "Sensationsmeldungen" auf Basis von statistischen Erhebungen sind. Also aufgepasst. Und dies gilt wohl insbesondere für Zahlen von comScore.
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Google+ IS and WILL BE a Huge Success
comScore sent waves through technology news yesterday when they announced the result of a "survey" suggesting that Google+ users spend, on average, a mere 3-minutes per month on average using the site. Even if this were true, it would matter far less than most of the pundits have imagined.
Before we consider why engagement levels on the Google+ social network (emphasis added for a reason, as we shall see) aren't the end-all be-all of Google+'s success, let's look at this data and ask what very few are asking: is it even a valid measure to begin with?
The simple answer to that question is: probably not. The most obvious weakness in the analysis, obvious because even comScore acknowledged it, is that their results do not include a critical metric: mobile usage. Tens of millions of Facebook users make daily use of Facebook on their mobile devices, and many tens of millions more make monthly use of Facebook on mobile devices, putting aside any issues of how Facebook defines "active users" (and there are serious questions on this point). If millions of Google+ users make use of their mobile apps daily or monthly, then this alone would skew results.
It should also be pointed out that their figures would only include time spent on the Google+ website proper, and omit any time spent using Google+ indirectly via the notification box (found across many of its sites, including Google Search), and by extension anyone using the Google+ notification extension for the Google Chrome web browser, since neither of these requires the user be on the Google+ website.
Users can also share to Google+ via the share box on many Google websites, and it's no easy matter to determine how many might be doing this or how frequently. There's also the matter of private versus public posts, and private posts have been notoriously difficult to gauge; given that Google+ itself has emphasized its privacy features, it may be that many users are not being counted as active users because of this.
Beyond these issues, there's a very serious question about the method used by comScore for their widely touted studies: comScore uses spyware to obtain their results. Spyware? you ask. Yes, indeed. For example, when you sign up for Sears and KMart's "communities", they install comScore spyware to track you for their "surveys". Hardly a representative sampling, wouldn't you agree?
comScore surely knows how flawed this methodology is, which is almost certainly why their results and methodology aren't published for everyone to see, but rather only those with a corporate email. That way the first to get access are, sadly, also the least critical audience: journalists. These journalists are more interested, it seems, in sensational headlines more often than fact checking their sources, and since almost no one can fact check them, they can feel pretty secure about getting away with it.
The fact that their findings are almost always sensational (for example, claiming in December of last year that iPads controlled 95% of tablet web browsing) should ring as just slightly suspicious to any critical reviewer. Worse yet, comScore has shown a remarkable inability to perform basic math, including simple addition, and their numbers are almost invariably wildly different than any internal estimates by the companies they survey, including, on occasion, Facebook itself.
A final point to consider about their methodology, in this specific case, was their practice of averaging usage across both active and inactive accounts, i.e. counting both active users, and those who simply signed up once and never came back. If a majority or near-majority of registered Google+ users signed up once and never came back to the site, then their average usage would be 0 minutes and weigh heavily when factored alongside active users, even if each of them spent considerable amounts of time engaging on the site.
Facebook may get somewhere between 50-60% of their registered users as monthly active users, but that means 40-50% do not use Facebook monthly, let alone daily, so by that standard, Facebook isn't having unbridled success with engaging all of its registered users either, and that's leaving aside the question of how many of their active users are actually unique users, as opposed to those who may have multiple, possibly several, Facebook accounts or not be real people at all.
Should we count all inactive Facebook users in determining how much time is spent engaging on Facebook? Even if comScore did this, it is widely acknowledged that Google+ has a greater proportion of tech savvy users likely to be active users but less likely to be harboring comScore spyware, which would skew the results towards the smaller proportion of non-savvy users.
Speaking as a Google+ user, there is more activity in my Google+ Stream than I can come close to keeping up with, and more members have Circled me than ever Friended me on Facebook, and these have been far more responsive and deeply engaging. Nor is my experience remotely unique, it is common among those who didn't simply sign up, realize that not everyone on their Facebook lists were on Google+, and leave.
Content creators (microbloggers, YouTube stars, etc…), and those seeking a deeper version of the type of interest engagement Twitter tries to offer with 144-character limits, generally report the same or similar results, i.e. more followers or, if fewer, then more frequent, deeper, and more meaningful engagement. For those who depend on deeper engagement, especially, this is worth more than having ten times as many Facebook followers whose engagement is largely shallow and/or infrequent.
Let's put all this aside, for now, and focus on whether these engagement numbers even matter. The truth is that, while of course they matter, they matter far less for Google than they do for Facebook. Why? Because Google isn't a social network, Google has a social network as one of a vast and highly successful ecosystem of Google products and services.
Even their products that are exempted from this, like the Chrome web browser, have seen and will see more and more features of Google+ tied in; the Chrome Web Store, for example, incorporates the +1 Button for recommending its apps and extensions, and offers multiple apps and extensions for Google+, and Android 4.0 and above prompts users to register Google+ accounts at activation.
Josh Constine (who, strangely, does not appear to have a Google+ account), in his TechCrunch article Why Google+ Doesn’t Care If You Never Come Back (http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/28/no-more-no-more-no-more-no-more/), argues that for Google the most critical factor of Google+'s success is getting you to fill out a profile, giving Google your name and any other information (employment, places lived, etc…) that can be better used to serve targeted ads. Once they've got this information it means very little whether you post anything to the social network part of the service.
He's partly right, this information certainly does improve their ad targeting and thereby increase revenue, but he also misses the bigger picture when he says, "Facebook owns the social graph and the relevance-sorted news feed of your friends’ activity, and Twitter owns the interest graph and the firehose of news and real-time updates." Neither of these are necessarily true statements, as I will explain.
Her most insightful comment, however, is when she says, "Google is shooting for a model that makes the entire web, or as much of it as they can lay claim to, their ecosystem." And that is the bigger picture. That is where Google+ makes Facebook's Open Graph Technology look more like the intrusive annoyance that it really is than the brilliant business opportunity that some mistake it for (although there are bound to be success stories here and there, so I wouldn't suggest that it's a total failure).
Google is all over the web in countless ways that range from the obvious to the invisible, from their market-dominating web advertising (set to overtake Facebook in the one area that it still exceeds Google, display advertisements, by this year or the next at current rates), to their unmatched analytics, their widespread identity features, search integration on websites, their market leading DNS, their popular website hosting (Google Sites), their increasingly dominant email (Gmail), and more.
In addition, their own sites and services combined are to Facebook what Goliath was to David, except that if Facebook has a slingshot to slay them with we've yet to see any clear sign of it. Google Search alone beat Facebook on the web in 2011 (judging by the fact that Facebook was the top search term of 2011, it would appear many web users have a hard time even finding Facebook without going through Google), but combined with dozens of other popular products and services, Google basically dominates the web.
The Google+ integration of Google's product line will also give them some access to Facebook itself to a degree they've not had before courtesy of YouTube. YouTube videos are the most popular videos shared on Facebook, but until now they haven't enjoyed the full benefit of this because of embedded YouTube players, which keep the user on Facebook rather than always taking them to the YouTube website.
Links posted on Facebook generally take users outside of Facebook, and Google often manages to be there when you arrive at the linked website, in one form or another (or several at the same time), but not YouTube. With Google+ integration this won't matter as much, because they will be able to tie YouTube accounts together with information from other Google sites and services regardless where they are viewed (on Facebook, on another website, or anywhere else for that matter, as long as you are logged-in to a Google account).
When John Constine declares that Facebook "owns" the social graph, or that Twitter "owns" news and interests, Google can respond by pointing to their Google+ Search Integration (which affects, to different degrees, both Search Plus Your World and the generic Google Search), Google News, YouTube, Google Analytics, Google's identity services for websites, and much more.
The fact that these may not always be "in your face" examples may, in fact, be a strength compared with Facebook's increasingly opaque effort to force users to do anything and everything on Facebook itself. Which is more annoying… clicking on a link on Facebook only to be prompted to install an Open Graph News Reader, or clicking on a link to be taken to an outside website where Google is already present, possibly in multiple forms, more-or-less invisibly to the user?
Their very invisibility, in fact, it precisely why every highly engaged Google+ user is worth a small army of highly engaged Facebook users. Facebook has long presented themselves as, essentially, the largest free party in history. They set up and paid for the venue and the dance floor, the DJ's and the catering, got all the cool celebrities to show up, and even invited all your friends and family.
Then, when they realized they couldn't continue to pay all the expenses and keep the party going, they started putting advertisements up on the walls and mixing marketers and advertisers into the crowd. They also threw in various games and activities to help keep you further engaged, and while these were also free, they managed with varying success to get the party-goers to spend on these in other ways, or even to use these as platforms for advertising.
To a point hardly anyone even noticed this, unfortunately for Facebook, nor did anyone take much notice when they invited retailers to set up shops to hock their goods to the party-goers, in fact so little notice was taken that the retailers have subsequently shut down shop. They tried to build email service and other products to get users to stop thinking of it as just a party place, but none of these have done particularly well, and they didn't want to risk driving you away by pushing too hard.
But when none of this changed the general behaviors and perceptions of the party-goers to recognize Facebook as a serious place for business, Mark Zuckerberg basically got up on stage, killed the music, and announced that while it was all fine and well to party, for the party to keep growing and getting better, it was time to get down to the brass tacks.
They started letting advertisers pay to get their own "music" played (Sponsored Stories, Frictionless Sharing, etc…), started trying to explain that the free party wasn't just over but had never really been free to begin with, started blatantly sharing information about the party-goers, whether they liked it or not, with both other party-goers and the aforementioned marketers, advertisers, etc…
The result of this was that, now, Facebook ranks pathetically low on any survey of brand perception, while their rival Google ranks near the top of the list every time. Google never pretended to be a free party, everyone knew they were a business, but much like their real world business (where employees enjoy going down company slides, free gourmet food, massages, and rides in the driverless cars), they found ways to make the business feel less like business.
Consequently, no one goes to Facebook looking to buy something, or almost no one does at least, but Google is right there when you're looking to spend money (or are actually spending it), through their search engine, their advertising, their analytics, etc… Rather than try to build a business on top of a free party, they've built something of a party atmosphere right into their business itself, sort of like a Chuck E Cheese where you know it's a business but can still have fun while you spend.
Their answer to the "social graph" or "interest graph" of Facebook and Twitter is ultimately, as a result, a far more profitable business model, precisely because it is a business model and everyone knows it, and whether you always know that you're doing business with them, through them, or at least where they can know the who, what, where, when, how, and why of your business is irrelevant.
They don't even need to throw up any advertisements on the wall of the party room (i.e. the Google+ social network proper), because the party is only an adjacent feature of the business, and even manages to spill over, largely unnoticed, into the business itself.
You may not realize that the interests of the party goers are influencing the layout of the store's inventory, but Google knows it, and does a pretty good job of not letting on unless it actually matters to you. And this is worth a whole lot more to them then whether you ever share pictures of your cat on their social network.
Technerdium Central: Google+ IS and WILL BE a Huge Success
comScore sent waves through technology news yesterday when they announced the result of a "survey" suggesting that Google+ users spend, on average, a mere 3-minutes per month on average usin…
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