Glitch Causes Mark Zuckerberg & Top Google Execs Drop From Most Followed On Google+

The irony of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg being the most followed person on Google+ is over. He’s disappeared from the top rankings, along with Google CEO Larry Page who was the second most followed and other Google execs. It’s down to a glitch, Google says.

Google+ allows you to show the number of people you follow in one or more of your “circles” to the world, if you chose. You can also show the number of people how follow you. Here’s an example of how it looks for Bradley Horowitz, the Google vice president who oversees Google Plus:

From Public Counts To Public Rankings

These counts are how sites like Google+ Statistics or Find People on Google+ create “most followed” lists for Google Plus. As of yesterday on Google+ Statistics, which updates regularly, Mark Zuckerberg topped the list, with nearly 140,000 followers. Today, he’s gone, replaced by Robert Scoble:

Follower Counts Go Missing

What happened? It appears that Zuckerberg, along with a number of Google executives, chose to go private over who follows them. (NOTE: This was due to a glitch, see further below).

For example, Google CEO Larry Page was formerly ranked number two. Now, he’s also gone, with no one listed on his profile of who he’s following or being followed by:

Also gone is Sergey Brin, who was ranked number three. Google’s social chief Vic Gundotra was fourth, I believe. He’s gone, too. So is Google’s local chief Marissa Mayer.

Matt Cutts, not a Google executive but a prominent Googler who oversees web spam, was ranked eighth yesterday. He’s now gone.

Still On Google+, Just No Follower Counts

To be clear, all of these people still have Google+ accounts. The Googlers are still fairly active publicly (Zuckerberg never was, at least in public). But en masse, a number of them suddenly decided to no longer show their follower counts. Whether this was after Zuckerberg dropped his count or before isn’t clear.

Why? No idea. If I learn more, I’ll update.

NOTE: Vic Gundotra later posted to Google+ this explanation:

This was glitch that affected small number of people – those with very high followers and few people in their circles.

If you enjoy speculation, well, read on for the rest of our original story. It raises the issue of what the service might be like if follower counts became “uncool” and other topics.

Change To Help Google+ Image Or “Real” Celebs?

I can think of some reasons, however.

For one, it kind of looks bad to some if your own social network is just dominated by people from your own company. But “getting out of the way,” so to speak, removes an easy poke that anyone might want to make that Google+ is just about Google.

For another, Google+ continues to have new people coming in, especially “real” celebrities. Rapper and actor 50 Cent turned up yesterday, completely with a semi-official welcome (and no issues, apparently, with a stage name being considered a violation of Google’s no “fake name” rules).

Since Google+ remains invite only, and still has a relatively limited membership, there’s no way for celebrities to easily skyrocket up in the follower counts. It takes time for word to go around that they are in the service. There are also questions about if they are real or not (is that really Richard Branson who joined two days ago? Seems so, but who knows?).

When the Google execs get out of the way, the celebrities have a shot at rising higher on the lists that are being compiled.

It’s “Cool” Not To Show Your Count

Going stealth on follower counts also potentially sets the stage for an excuse that the “cool” or “modest” thing to do is not to show your count. Back to 50 Cent, who has nearly 5 million followers on Twitter, he’s not showing a count on Google Plus.

There’s no choice on Twitter. You have a follower count by default, for public accounts. But Google+ provides a choice. And if your count is low — or you’re concerned that celebs coming in might have low numbers — then having Google execs suddenly all decide to drop their counts gives those celebs a nice excuse to do the same.

Too much conspiracy? Maybe. It is odd that this just happened. But for whatever reason, potentially, it could introduce yet another dynamic into the social space, where it’s very easy for people to obsess over follower counts or have debates over “influence” and “amplification” and instead bring a bigger focus on following people based on quality or subject.

That could be an interesting and refreshing new world. The problem is, right now Google+ still makes it pretty hard to locate people. You can search by name, but you might not find people who are actually active on the service. Searching by subject has proven disappointing, when I’ve tried it.

Brands remain in limbo. As for celebrities, despite Google Profiles having a verification system that existed before Google+, that was lost after the launch. My understanding is that this is being checked on, so maybe it will return soon. That would be a big help.

Ironically, one of the ways I depended on knowing if a new celebrity on Google+ was real was looking to see if major Google execs were following them. Now that some are going stealth, that touchstone becomes less useful.

In somewhat related news, you can now hide your gender, should you so chose.

Postscript: Vic Gundotra and Marissa Mayer have now reopened their follower lists. There’s also discussion happening on a Google+ post I started here. In it, Ben Metcalfe comments that some Googlers were using a privacy feature not available to the general public that may have caused some profiles to lose their public follower status.

Postscript 2: In case you missed it above, Vic Gundotra posted this explanation:

This was glitch that affected small number of people – those with very high followers and few people in their circles.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Features: Analysis | Google: Google+ | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Michael Martinez

    Google+ has so far failed to impress me. It comes across as boring and unimaginative. I look forward to seeing SEO news stories about something more interesting.

  • Nick Gowdy

    Yes, entirely uninteresting. I mean, Google+ has no relevance for SEO, is nowhere in Google’s plans for integrating more social indicators into search, has not received generally positive early reviews, and has not been validated by the panicked response from Facebook. It’s all just a bunch of boring and hollow Buzz.

    So everyone just go back to keyword stuffing, directory listings, and article submission. Can we get a few more posts on those topics, Danny? Surely there’s some real SEO news going uncovered while all this Google+ garbage is filling our feeds.

  • Jeffrey Zelaya

    Michael and Nick must work at Facebook.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Michael, Nick, we have a constant stream of SEO and search marketing related news that goes out. This is only one of several stories we’ll be posting today.

    Aside from that, you’re both wrong. Sorry. But if you think Google+ has nothing to do with SEO, you’re missing the boat.

    Search engines have been using social signals more and more over the past year. I’d suggest a refresher here:

    To say Google+ doesn’t matter reminds me of old-school SEOs who talked about Twitter and other social sites not mattering for SEO. Here’s an older piece as to why I think that was wrong:

    And here’s a fresh piece from this year where I cover why any search marketer who thinks social has nothing to do with search marketing really needs to reassess things:

    Michael, Nick, all I can tell you is that I’m hypersensitive that anything we cover here at Search Engine Land has some relevancy toward search (we cover more than SEO, of course — paid search, as well as search topics in general).

    If we’re posting on it, yes, we think there’s some reason. In the case of Google+, Google is building up its own social network that almost certainly will have an impact on its search results over time. So I do think people here want to keep on top of that.

  • Nicola Martino

    I would say this is the first error by google +

  • S.N.

    It seems everyone is missing the sarcasm in Nick’s post in response to Michael’s.

  • M. Edward Borasky

    I guess Zuckerberg and the top Google execs only got *part* of the message. Not only do we not care how many followers they have, we don’t care what they *think* or *say* either. We only care what they *do* and how it affects *us*.

  • Maha Aad

    Something happened in the last few hours and Larry has made his popularity public again.

  • Jonathon Weston

    S.N. I totally missed the sarcasm too. On re-reading it though its pretty obvious. lol.

  • TimmyTime

    Michael et al,
    Danny is a good man but he’s in love with Google. At least he admits it.

    Now they removed them (IMO) becuase they want G+ to be about others, namely mom and dad and teenagers not wannabe tech celebs. This techie buzz is great but it actually hurts google since all you see is males, engineers, SEO, losers etc etc. This way G+ will surely fail.

  • Carl Chapman

    Just checked, and Larry is still showing “Have Larry in circles (94913)” in his profile. Must have put it back up.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I did miss the irony, thanks for pointing that out, SN and apologies, Nick. Like Jonathon said, it was pretty obvious when I read it again!

    TimmyTime, I’m totally not in love with Google. I’ll spare you the many posts I could link to as evidence of this, but read the original review of Google+, and that alone might be sufficient.

    Carl, I’ve updated the story. Apparently, it was all a glitch.

  • jorge bonilla

    I think that google+ will effect SEO in a different way. Google has the biggest search company in the world! Of course its going to have some effect on it! Back to the post lol. Mark Zuckerberg probably took it down to seem like google is trying to play unfairly :P

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