Google+ turns four next month.
Through much of its existence, Google's social network has often been criticized as a "ghost town" that's "dead" and about to be shut down. The criticisms always come from non-users.
Google+ fans always chime in to rebut those criticisms, often flooding the story or post with disagreement. With all those passionate users, how can it be a ghost town?
Then someone does a study based on public posts, appearing to show low engagement. The response is that private posts, which are likely to be equal in number to public posts, are not — and cannot be — counted. Besides, comparisons between social networks are misleading. For example, replies on Google+ are not counted as "posts," whereas on Twitter they are. So a post with 100 replies on Google+ is counted as one post; a post with 100 replies on Twitter is counted as 101 posts.
And so on.
The controversy about Google+ engagement never seems to end.
But whatever the current level of activity on Google+ is, it could be vastly higher if Google itself wasn't holding back users by suppressing public posts, removing comments, hiding amazing content and failing to fully use the technology it has already developed.
Here are 10 ways Google could radically crank up the engagement on Google+.
1. Keep comments flagged as 'spam' visible
Google algorithmically identifies comments that might be spam, then hides them in a hidden area where only the post owner can see them. Most users ignore this area, so in effect these comments are just automatically erased.
(To see flagged and hidden comments, click on the date or time in a post. Then, above comments, look for "Show comments removed as spam.")
I find that more than half of the comments Google flags on my posts are good comments that I have to take time to restore. But most people don't restore them, so Google is actually deleting a huge percentage of the engagement that takes place on Google+. Those removed comments could have sparked even more engagement by other users — if they ever saw them. (Google says unflagging comments improves its algorithms, but I haven't noticed any improvement.)
This is the wrong way to go. It's better to keep bad comments than to remove good ones.
The solution is for Google to flag but not remove possible spam comments — make them a different color for the post owner. Then enable rapid deletion by the post owner.
2. Create a main page with good customized filtering
Google is supposed to be good at algorithms and personalization. But there is no stream on Google+ where Google takes everything it knows about me (from this and other Google sites) and customizes a stream that reflects my real interests.
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