Live Blog: Google’s Vic Gundotra At SMX Social Media Marketing

Our SMX Social Media Marketing conference is winding down today and the final event on the agenda is a keynote conversation involving Vic Gundotra, the Senior VP of Engineering for Google+, and our own Editor-in-Chief, Danny Sullivan. No doubt the discussion today will cover today’s Google+ adoption/activity statistics, along with plenty of other topics related […]

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smx-social-media-logoOur SMX Social Media Marketing conference is winding down today and the final event on the agenda is a keynote conversation involving Vic Gundotra, the Senior VP of Engineering for Google+, and our own Editor-in-Chief, Danny Sullivan.

No doubt the discussion today will cover today’s Google+ adoption/activity statistics, along with plenty of other topics related to Google’s “social spine.” The keynote should begin in a few minutes, and we’ll be live blogging here. You’ll also be able to watch live via a Google+ Hangout, so stay tuned for more!


And we’re underway!

Danny mentions that Google+ is growing and expanding across Google properties. I’ll use “DS” for Danny Sullivan and “VG” for Vic Gundotra below.

VG: When we thought about Google+, we recognized that there was a sea change online. It wasn’t just about connecting people to pages, but about connecting people to other people. We had to reset and ask, “What are our objectives? What’s missing?”

We heard from people over and over that they wanted a service that mirrored real life. We change how and what we talk about depending on who we’re with. Other services put everyone in a “friend bucket,” even your boss or the person down the street.

By putting identity through all of our services, we started to be able to unify the experience. Our announcement today of Google+ Communities extends that.

DS: Communities are more for group discussion rather than just one way posting.

VG: Yes. Audi has launched a Community so that its fans can talk to one another. Companies like Toyota and others have acquired followers faster on Google+ than any other service. Today’s announcement lets them segment their communities into sub-groups — fans of certain vehicles.

DS: Mentions today’s growth figures and asks Vic to explain what the numbers mean.

VG: One of the things missing in the discussion is the X-axis of time. If you’d told our team that there would be more than 100 million active users in the stream in a year-and-a-half, that would’ve sounded crazy.

We have 135 million active in the stream. The second number, 235 million, are people who are active in other properties — people who +1 an app in the Google Play store or review a restaurant in Google+ Local. The 500 million are people who have a Google+-enabled profile.

DS: I look at the 135 million as the number to compare to Facebook, but you made the point that users doing Facebook chat outside their stream – they may count as active Facebook users, so why shouldn’t YouTube users count toward Google+.

VG: Right. We can debate this all we want, but one thing is undisputable: Google+ has the momentum. Google+ is Google.

DS: In Gmail, there are Google+ things I can do, but if I don’t use them, do I still count toward the 135 million?

VG: No.

DS: (missed his question)

VG: I think people are just now starting to understand that Google+ is Google. At some point, we’re gonna have a billion users. And eventually, you’ll just say “Google has a billion users.”

DS: Don’t you already have a billion users (via search)?

VG: Yes, but we’re just now getting to the stage where we can connect all these people.

DS: You were in our session earlier about Google+ and saw that many people are not active. What do you say to them?

VG: Some things take some time to explain. I think for users the value proposition is very clear. To this day, more than half of all sharing on Google+ is private — done in circles. Vic goes on to promote the “uncluttered” look of Google+ and the features like Hangouts, etc. “People who use it, love it.”

DS: But what about for marketers? What do you say to them?

VG: I think they should talk to some of the brands and marketers that are using Google+, like Cadbury. Cadbury is seeing a 17% uplift in CTR. HM is seeing a 22% uplift in CTR because they’re using Google+. (Danny got Vic to clarify this, but the exact wording was unclear. Sorry.)

Everything we’ve done to date is the tip of the iceberg.

(conversation continued here; missed Q&A to take and embed this photo)


DS: What about bad things that have happened? Like when Obama announced his re-election on Twitter and Facebook, but took two days to say anything on Google+?

VG: “Yeah, that was disappointing.” Says he’s still happy with Google+ growth and these things will come in time.

DS: What can you do to help marketers more?

VG: Says education is part of it, and more things are in the works.

What’s Hot is all algorithmic, but Suggested Users is a mix of hand-picked and algorithmic choices.

Vic starts talking about Alicia Keys and Taylor Swift being active on Google+ lately with exclusive. Audi launched its communities today. “I don’t think you want to be the last person in town to be on Google,” he says.

DS: Asks about Google+ Local status. (Which is quite a mess these days.)

VG: “We certainly can do better” with the migration (from Google Places to Google+ Local). Vic goes on to talk about how great the local recommendations are.

“We’ve heard some criticisms about the complexity. We can do a better job of explaining that and simplifying.”

DS: Asks about Google+ and its relationship to search. Where’s it going, etc.

VG: Right now, anytime I do a search related to SEO, I see your name and photo in my search results.

DS: That’s unfortunate!

VG: I think that’s good because you’ve been doing this a long time. But it’s still early days for us. As Google+ grows and our Knowledge Graph grows, we’ll be able to do some very exciting things. Just watch in the next year.

DS: Question about Google+ Events.

VG: Mentions the mistake at the beginning when you could be spammed with event invites. “That was pretty stressful.” But says after that was fixed, usage of Events has grown.

DS: Danny asks about new features that are needed.

VG: We have a substantial list across the board — the Android team, search team, YouTube team, everyone’s working on a To Do list. 2013 is going to be a great year.

DS: Are you working on native integration with iOS, like it has with Twitter and Facebook?

VG: Twitter and Facebook have very deep, system-level integration in iOS. We would love to have the same kind of thing with Google+.

DS: Biggest challenge for next year?

VG: We need to maintain user satisfaction. Part of that is being respectful of privacy. We’re always asking “What is the user expectation of privacy?” with every new idea.

The second thing is how do we keep moving ahead with speed.

DS: Audience question re: vanity URLs, analytics, etc.

VG: We’re trying to improve the vanity URL process. It was initially for a handful of brands that were very engaged. It’s been expanding and will continue to expand.

We’re hard at work on analytics. We know it’s important, especially to marketers.

DS: Another question about data problems with Google+ Local.

VG: We know how alarming that can be. It’s an area for improvement for us. We have a very committed local team that has a hard job of working with a legacy system, but I think 2013 is going to be a big year for that team.

(skipped some questions about listening to music via Google+)

DS: Audience question about Google+ API.

VG: It’s a mixed bag. You can post to multiple networks from Hootsuite, but there are dangers. I just saw a brand that posted about getting Facebook Likes on Google+, and you should’ve seen the reaction from Google+ users. You have to be thoughtful of the audience.

We’ve opened up the API to a handful of partners and we’re being thoughtful of opening it up further.

DS: asks Twitter question — very detailed about local businesses using PINS to claim a business listing

DS: Audience question about problems for Google Apps users in Google+ world.

VG: One of the biggest challenges we have is to cleanup our existing identity mess. You can have a different identity in Apps, in Gmail, in YouTube, etc. We need to develop and release tools to make it easy to combine these identities. And then we have to allow some users to not combine their identities. We’re working on all this. It’s going to get better.

DS: Asks question about whether Google+ success means that all employees got those paycheck bonuses that were promised. (I might know the person who submitted this question. Very well.)

VG: Google+ has done really well. I had several models where I guessed where we’d be. In my “crazy” model, we’d have 400 million profiles by the end of 2012. We have more. It’s grown beyond our dreams.

We don’t talk about compensation at Google, ever. But I can say it’s very good to work at Google.

DS: Question about questionable content on Google+, and times when you want to share that, but make sure it only gets seen by people who should see it.

VG: One of the things that never gets talked about, but is so important to Google+ success, is the spam team. Goes on to explain the various spam reporting tools, and how you can target content into circles.

DS: (I missed the question, but it seems to be about apps and the API.)

VG: We have a lot to figure out a lot of this stuff. If someone buys a song on Google Play, should that show up on Google+? I don’t think it’s fair to open up an API until we figure out all these issues, because we don’t want to go too far and have to pull back.

DS: Why haven’t you tweeted since July 2011?

VG: I made one tweet and was asked not to do that again by my boss. I tweeted about two other companies, and didn’t expect that my tweet would be interepreted the way it was. So I’ve curtailed my usage since then. Plus, I’ve been really busy with Google+.

DS: Do you at least check out the other social networks?

VG: It’s part of my job to know what they’re doing, so of course I look at them. But my predominant usage is on Google+.

Danny then tries to play word association but Vic is unable to come up with a single word to associate with “Twitter” and “Facebook.”

DS: Pinterest.

VG: Beautiful.

DS: Foursquare.

VG: Check in is two words.

DS: Google+.

VG: (thinks) Beginning.

Vic closes with a some of the stories he loves about how people have used Google+. “The web isn’t just about pages anymore. It’s about people, and Google can play a very big role in that.”

And with that we’re finished. Thanks to all for reading/following along.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Matt McGee
Matt McGee joined Third Door Media as a writer/reporter/editor in September 2008. He served as Editor-In-Chief from January 2013 until his departure in July 2017. He can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee.

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