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What the Plus! What's Up With Google+? An Interview With Guy Kawasaki

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I am so pleased to be interviewing Guy Kawasaki; he really needs no introduction because he is so fabulous. Recently, I was so excited to read your book, What The Plus! a book about Google+.

So Guy, Google+: What is the excitement? Why are you and people so excited about Google+? A lot of people are rolling their eyes.

A lot of people roll their eyes when they are faced with innovation, in any circumstance. I like it because of the design aesthetics. I think a lot of the logic of Google+ is much better in terms of notification of messages to you, in terms of how you post. One very obvious feature is that with Google+, after you post something you can edit it forever. That is true of both posts and comments. I edit almost every post I make and almost every comment I make. That is something you just cannot do with Twitter or Facebook. I think the way they put pictures inline is very well done. Albums inline without advertising is very well done. I also think the community just happens to post and comment in a much higher quality way than in Facebook and Twitter.

I agree with you on all those points. Is there a reason, SEO-wise, that it matters more? Because Facebook has so many people on it and people know Facebook.

You just asked two questions. One is the SEO question and I have to say that I think SEO is basically black magic. Having said that, Google+ has a form of SEO that is truly comprehensible; it has incorporated into regular Google search, your friends and the people you circle when they have posted about that topic. So this means that if you post a lot about venture capital, when people who are your friends search for venture capital they will see what you said. This is making your search results not just link-based the way Google was, but also social-based so that you can see people that you know and what they said about a topic. A more saline example is perhaps if you did not get to go to South by Southwest and you would like to see pictures of what people said about it. If you did the traditional search, you would find The New York Times, The Washington Post and San Jose Mercury News and what they said about South by Southwest. But now you will be able to see what your friends said about South by Southwest, which would yield a whole different search results. So that is the SEO part. As far as Google+ not having your existing friends and family; that is statistically, of course, true. I would make two cases however. Let's say that the Facebook has 10x the number of users that Google+ does. However, Facebook uses this thing called EdgeRank and so with EdgeRank not all of your friends on Facebook see your updates, roughly only 10 percent of them see it. So in very simple math, if you have 10x more friends on Facebook but only 1/10 of them are seeing your update, it is kind of a problem. So that is number one; number two, I think you have to approach Google+ as if you are starting all over in life and your friends and family are probably not there yet. But many of your family and friends do not share the same passions as you. I have a passion for photography and hockey; I can't tell you that a lot of my friends and family on Facebook share those passions. But I can go to Google+ and I can search for hockey, and I can search for photography and find people who also love hockey and photography. In a way that is much better than how I can search for that on Twitter or Facebook.

I have heard some people love Google+, a lot of technology people love Google+. And a lot of people think that it does not have staying power. I understand it is Google, but they have not always launched successful ventures.

This is true. I have heard the same attitude when I used to say we used Macintoshes. Some said that Google and Macintosh would fail, so I am used to dealing with negativism.

Yes that is very true. We said the same thing about Twitter right? When it first came out, people looked at it and thought, what is the point?

Not only did we question Twitter as we are questioning Google+, but I think that if people remember correctly it about four years ago that people were doing the opposite with MySpace. They were saying that MySpace was destined to control the world and it would be the operating system of the Internet. Today MySpace is basically gone. What the experts say would be successful, failed. And what the experts say would fail, succeeded. So basically we are seeing a pattern here which is going against the experts.

Yes, absolutely. So in your recommendation, who needs to be on Google+?

I don't know if anybody needs to be on anything, Twitter, Facebook or Google. Let's take a far-fetched example; let's say that your passion is knitting and you want to find other people who love knitting. If you went to Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and search for knitting on all of them, I would predict that you would find a much better knitting community on Google+ that you can interact with. You don't know any of them yet, but you can interact with them and develop a new set of friends that you cannot have done on any other social network. I don't want you to think that Google+ equals knitting but you can almost type any keyword and find a community, it might be smaller than the communities on the preexisting Twitter and Facebook, but it will be more active and more intellectual.

So, how does somebody or a business get started on Google+?

If it is a small business I would just not differentiate between the business and the person. I would just get on to Google+ and I would start following people in that sector to find out what people in that same industry are doing, and start posting and commenting. The goal is to position yourself as a sector expert. For example, let's say you were a restaurant; I would go on to Google+ and search for "Food" or "Foodie", terms such as that. Then start offering up my cooking tips, my links to articles about special new ovens, or whatever. Become a trusted source of information and then every once and a while, hit people with a promotion for my restaurant.

A lot of people consider it and say, "Oh God, Pinterest, Google+ and all these other things that require our time." How much management does Google+ require?

You are talking to a crack addict about crack.

Yes I know, you do update a lot! But you are Guy Kawasaki!

Yes, I am a bad person to ask! I update up to 10x per day. You know, probably a half-hour per day, for normal people. People not like me. But people may say that they do not have half-an-hour a day to do this and that very well may be true. On the other hand, another way to look at it is 10-15 years ago when we first saw websites did you say to yourself, "Who has the time put up a website and maintain a website?" I am not selling books online, why would my BP Company need a website? Well if you said that today you would be laughed at, right? I suppose that at one point somebody said, "Why do I need to put a telephone in my store? I do enough serving customers, why do I need a phone?" Technology moves on.

Yes, that is true. I read a blog where you were with Chris Brogan, and you said that you have abandoned Facebook altogether. Did I understand that correctly?

No, you know, I had a renaissance with Facebook. Facebook added a feature where I had two fan pages and a regular personal profile and I was able to merge some of that. So now they have added a feature where people can subscribe to a page resulting in 220,000 subscribers. When you have 220,000 subscribers it gets interesting. So now I have a lot of action on Facebook, basically almost everything I post on Google+, I then do it manually on Facebook.

People talk about specific demographics for LinkedIn and Facebook. Would you say that there is a specific demographic for Google+? You said knitting and that kind of surprised me.

You know, I have no idea, I post everything to them, I just let it rip. You could make a case that Pinterest is for American qomen, 35-50 years old putting up pictures of food and dresses. You mean right... look at what is up there. I think Google+ is probably broader.

Yes, right. Some people say that the numbers are declining on Google+. Who do we really believe?

I think that Google+ has done a disservice because they started blowing smoke and it is very difficult to figure out what they mean by users of Google+. To me, I would love to know the number of actual people who are posting and commenting; but you cannot get that number out of Google. So they started blowing smoke about this is the backbone and spine of our company. So Google+ is everywhere, if you +1 a YouTube video you are now a Google+ user. Well, not in my mind. I suppose Facebook, when you "like" something... Facebook counts that as a user because you used the Like button. A person who has used the Facebook Like button on a random website is much more likely to have a Facebook account that they are really using then someone who happened to click twice in Gmail and registered for Google+ and now clicked a +1 button. So, I don't know the answer and I think Google is painting itself into a corner by not just saying "OK, this is the number."

Yes. They are being a little careful about it. I think maybe they are just figuring things out because they have rolled out new designs and updates and things. What do you think that Google should do next with Google+? If you were running the show, what would you suggest they do?

First of all, they would never let me run the show! I think it is pretty much steady as she goes. That now it is a marathon not a sprint. There are definitely things that I would do like the Google Chrome extension called Replies and More that makes replying to authors and posters and commenters so much better, 10x better; I would build that into the system. I would definitely open up the API so people can post using other apps. There are some aesthetic things I would change, but generally speaking I am very happy. I think there are things that should be tweaked, but I am basically happy. At any point there are things that I would fix with the Macintosh too. So it is never a perfect world.

Absolutely, that is always getting tweaked. I told somebody the other day that I was so excited about interviewing Guy Kawasaki and they said, "Oh, the Enchantment Guy!" and I said, "Yes, now he is the Google+ Guy!"

I am a little of both.

Yes, you are a little of both. You self-published What the Plus. Why did you choose to go the self-publishing route?

There are several reasons. One is that from the time I finished What the Plus until the time it was available for sale was seven days. That is roughly 306 days faster than if it was a published book. That is one; number two is at a $2.99 price point I get $2 on $3. I get maybe $4 on a $25 book a year later. I think people would rather buy three $2 books than buy one $25 book. I am using suggested retail prices here. So that is another one. On April 11 (2012), Google changed the interface a lot. This is now May 15 (2012) and in a few days I will have rewritten the book and it will be out again; I could never revise a book in a month. So these are the key differences.

Yes, I think by nature of the work that you do, and other people who are online so much and writing about it, it has to be turned around that quickly. How can somebody get a copy of What the Plus? It is on Amazon, I know you have the website set up. It is a great book, by the way.

It is www.guykawasaki.com/what-the-plus/ and from there, there is a link to all the sites. But it is basically Amazon and iBooks, and also Google Play.

That is awesome. Guy, I want to thank you so much for spending some time with me.

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