It looks like adding a suggested user list to Google+ has finally paid off in solving its “Mark Zuckerberg problem.” Facebook’s CEO is no longer the most popular person on Google+, having just now been passed by Google CEO Larry Page.
Zuckerberg has been the most followed user since the first week that Google+ launched. That’s despite never once having posted to Google Plus.
Suggested User List Launched
On September 3, Google launched a Google+ suggested user list, encouraging Google+ users to “follow public posts from interesting and famous people,” as you can see below:
You’ll find the list itself here. Page is one of the top picks, as you can see above, though he doesn’t always appear “above the fold” over others. Google seems to randomly select who gets displayed each time that page is loaded.
These lists can be controversial over who does — and doesn’t — get on them and how that’s determined. But systems like these or other recommendation systems can be useful for new users who are looking for a way to get their social media streams started with content.
The Mark Zuckerberg Problem
A side benefit to the suggested user list at Google+ was that, since it recommends Page but not Zuckerberg, it would eventually solve what I’ve called the “Mark Zuckerberg problem.”
That’s having the CEO of rival social network Facebook be the most followed person on Google’s own social network, and doing so without ever having posted.
As I wrote when the suggested user list launched:
Another big plus is that the most followed user right now on Google+ is Mark Zuckerberg. Seriously, the founder and head of the social network you’re competing with is still the most followed person on your own service, two months in, and without a single post?
Putting Larry Page on the Suggested Users list (despite fairly infrequent posts; the last was over two weeks ago) should help move him over Mark. Same, too, for putting Sergey Brin, Pete Cashmore and Vic Gundotra on it — all the people directly behind Mark.
Opening Google+ To Public Aligned Top Users With Suggestions
Despite the list, Zuckerberg stayed comfortably ahead of Page until Google+ opened to the general public.
Remember, the list launched after Google+ had gained much of its invite-only audience. Most of that audience never saw the list. That meant the most popular people on Google+ were mostly early users who’d gained word-of-mouth followings.
After Google+ opened to anyone on September 20, millions of new people entered the service, and the suggested user list was one of the first things they saw. The most followed users on Google+ quickly began aligning with the suggested user list.
As I wrote on October 1:
The suggested user list is finally getting used as so many new people come in. As I said, the most followed people didn’t correlate so much with the suggested user list after it was launched. It really has been the influx of new people into Google+ that seems to be causing that. Existing people don’t see that list. New people do, and I’d say are making much use of it.
After Mark Zuckerberg, who’s still tops but not on the list (and losing groudn), Larry Page, Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg … you have nothing but suggested people until you get back to Ray William Johnson at #15.
After that, the remaining people in 30-50 are still mostly suggested users, with some interesting exceptions: Leo Laporte, Robert Scoble, Steven Levy, Rafinha Bastos, Matt Cutts, Marissa Mayer, Sarah Lane, Markus Persson and MG Siegler. Many of these people were popular on Google+ at the beginning.
Get Suggested & Get Popular
Here are the top 25 most popular people currently on Google+, based on the Social Statistics leaderboard, and what category or categories in the suggested list they appear in. If they’re not listed, “NOT SUGGESTED” is shown:
You can see that only six of the top 25 people aren’t suggested. At least two of them, Sergey Brin and Pete Cashmore, were suggested until being dropped sometime after October 1. Two others, Pitbull and Thomas Hawk, were on the list when it launched and dropped sometime after that.
That leaves Mark Zuckerberg and Will.i.am as the only two who have gained their popularity without an added boost from the suggested list — and looking at Will.i.am’s historic stats, I suspect he might have been added just after Google+ opened to the public and dropped only a few days ago.
Postscript: Thomas Hawk got in contact to let me know that he’s still on the suggested user list, as is Sergey Brin and Will.i.am. Apparently, the list doesn’t show everyone that Google has picked to display on it all at once. For example, there might be say 200 people across all the categories. Google seems to show a subset of these, and if you refresh the page, the subset changes.
The List & Changes
The list has changed over time. Felicia Day is an example of someone who wasn’t on it when it was launched (and already very popular on Google+), who was then added a few hours after it originally came out. Here’s the full current list, for the curious:
NOTE: See the postscript above. This is the current list I saw when loading it. If I’d refreshed several times, additional names in additional categories would have been revealed.
Fun & Interesting
|Photography & Art
Charting The Rise
Consider this chart, which uses historic figures from Social Statistics (a great site for tracking these things) for Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and the two most popular people behind them Britney Spears and Snoop Dogg:
You can clearly see that Page — on the suggested user list since it was launched on September 3 — had no big spike in follower activity because of that, not immediately after.
It wasn’t until Google+ opened to the general public on September 20 that he, along with Britney Spears and Snoop Dogg who were also suggestions, started to benefit from this, as new users began to see it. Zuckerberg also benefited from new users coming into the system, but not as dramatically as those on the suggested list.
Breaks on the chart, by the way, are for days when Social Statistics didn’t report or have historic figures.
Zuckerberg Drops To Number Two
Zuckerberg still leads if you look at measuring service Social Statistics, but that’s because the stats there lag slightly behind Google+ itself.
Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears & Number Three
Interestingly, Snoop Dogg had called out on October 3 to Zuckerberg, joking that he’d better look out, as Snoop Dogg has suddenly begun rising due to the new people seeing the suggested user list, as I explained above.
makn my way up on google+ — im comn for ya spot zuckerberg!!
But who really threatens Zuckerberg is Britney Spears. She’s in the number three spot already and certainly will pass Zuckerberg in the near future. She’s slowly outpacing Snoop Dogg and growing slightly faster than Page, on most days.
Here’s another chart, this time looking at the last month, showing this:
When Celebrities Rule, Is Your Social Network “Normal”?
While Zuckerberg is finally out of the top spot at Google+, he can still console himself knowing that he has over 800 million members at his own service, 9 million of whom follow Zuckerberg’s account there.
Of course, even on Facebook, Zuckerberg isn’t the most popular person there. Far from it. The most popular person being followed on Facebook, as reported by the All Facebook Facebook Page Leaderboard, is Eminem with nearly 50 million fans.
That’s perhaps a good thing, however. It indicates that Facebook (and this is true of Twitter, too), is a mainstream service where what’s popular in real life is popular in the virtual world of social networking.
For Google+, when Page is overtaken by mainstream celebrities, that”ll likely be a sign that Google+ has gained wider adoption.