Google+: The new popularity contest in town

Google+, the latest and hottest social networking site, has gathered 10 million users in 16 days and 20 million users in three weeks. For a technology company which releases a web product, that is a huge deal. Twitter and Facebook took 780 days and 852 days respectively to reach 10 million users.  Of course, that story discounts the fact that Facebook and Twitter have actually help spread the word for Google+.

So far the reaction to Google+ has been very positive. Google+ is like Facebook, Twitter and Google Wave done right. There are lot of idiosyncrasies and annoyances which still have to be taken care of by Google, but Google+ is here is to stay.

Though carefully crafted, Google+ is turning out to be a popularity contest. That’s no fault of Google+ but the ecosystem around it. It happened with Twitter and it happened with Facebook. How many people you follow and how many followers do you have? Now divide the number of followers you have with the number of people you follow, multiply with the number of re-tweets or likes you get and then multiply that by an obscure fraction and you will get your influence score. The math which I just explained isn’t what the influence score calculators actually use but the parameters explained are what they use.

Services like PeerIndex and Klout have taken the number tracking to a new level by coming up with scores based on the followers, retweets, likes and level engagement you have on your audience. These are complex algorithms which prove to be useful in a unique way. For example, someone could filter all the tweets or suggestions from people with a Klout score greater than 30. Is that good? We never know. Do we have a better way to measure stuff? Probably not. Should we measure at all?

Now that’s one hell of a question to answer. The tendency to measure precedes the age of social networking. It is as old as mankind. That’s how we are wired. We don’t expect this behavior to change anytime soon. Social networking sites and the tools around them just make it too easy to track, leaving us vulnerable to petty comparisons and pseudo influences.

Google+ is done in a different way than Facebook and Twitter, making the straight tracking of metrics less meaningful. Come to think of it, Google+ makes the whole measuring game useless. Here’s how it works. You can have a maximum of 5,000 people in your circles. Any number of people can have you in their circles. With Google+’s exhaustive privacy policy, you can choose your circles to share updates. You can send it to public and to your Extended Circles, which will give you the maximum leverage.

In Google+, it actually makes more sense to follow more people, something which Twitter and Facebook don’t have. Google+ is specifically designed for maximum interaction and reach. Though many people have already got it, few are too busy tracking the metrics, which is done in the way Facebook and Twitter metrics were tracked. Unfortunately that conventional social media engagement measuring doesn’t work.

There are plethora of tools already measuring metrics for Google+ users. Mark Zuckerberg is top with 300,000+ followers. He hardly have anyone in his circles. Google hasn’t yet released the developer API. We can only imagine what fresh hell we would have when the API’s are released.

Google+ is already is a popularity contest. The good thing is you don’t have to participate in it. Instead what I recommend is try to get as many people in your circles as you can, have appropriate filters and try to get lost in the streams. You will be amazed at the things you find and information you can soak in.

PS:  If you are curious, my Klout score is 51 and PeerIndex is 48.