Over at VentureBeat, Rocky Agrawal is outraged at Google for being "intellectually dishonest" regarding the user engagement the company is seeing in its Google+ social network.
As I noted Saturday, Google CEO Larry Page counted 90 million Google+ accounts, but declined to say how frequently users were accessing +, what they were doing there and for how long. These are key user engagement statistics. Facebook shares tons of them. Google won't.
Agrawal said Google also tried to trick users by having Page say "+users are very engaged with our products--over 60 percent of them engage daily, and over 80 percent weekly." Hopefully, Google would trick a few journalists into reporting 60 percent of Google+ users engage on the Website daily. Agrawal noted:
"But what concerns me most is that Google is touting these meaningless statistics in the hopes that journalists will misunderstand them and report that Google+ is seeing rapid growth. The bottom line is, those 60 percents, 80 percents and 90 million registered users are just there to mask the fact that Google doesn't want to tell us how many people are actually using Google+."
"It's intellectually dishonest. And as a public company, it raises questions of Google's intent -- the market is watching Google's moves in social and needs to see traction. I expect better from Google."
This hand-wringing is valid until you understand Google can't report user engagement -- not yet. It's too soon.
Social media experts put so much emphasis on user engagement that no matter what Google reports, people will compare it to Facebook and label it an utter failure.
For marketing reasons, Google can't afford to have reporters writing headlines such as "Google Had 90 Million Accounts But Little User Engagement."
If Google loses the marketing and PR battle with Google+, it will lose the interest of users who don't want to be seen using the "next MySpace." That goes for prospective advertisers, who will continue to flock to Facebook.
It's a Catch-22 of epic proportions, which is why I cringe every time Page or some other Googler discusses Google+ stats.
Agrawal is right; Google shouldn't be disingenuous. What it should be is quiet until it has something meaningful and substantive to report regarding Google+.
In the meantime, feel free to follow Agrawal's advice and write off that Google+ registered user count as a phantom number.
Sure, there may be 90 million or 100 million people who register, but how many of those people register accounts as placeholders for themselves and their families? That's something to consider, too. Every tech-savvy user does it to ensure their kids get the best names.