Who doesn’t like a little fun competition. Numbers are cool.
If you hadn’t noticed, because you likely don’t go to your Google+ profile very often, Google has added a little number that is almost certain to get people talking about another irrelevant statistic. It is sure to be taken out of context and used in all matter of conversation about someone’s “value.” As of Monday, below your beautiful photo, in addition to the number of people following you, there is now a Google+ “views” number.
Some sites reporting on this news are inaccurately stating that this number represents a profile view count, but it doesn’t. It is a total content views count. As you can see from the graphic, Trey Ratcliff has received almost 4.5 Billion (with a B) total content views. That’s a lot of people looking at his photographs. I would argue his number is deserved. His photos blow my mind.
Here’s the thing. These are not unique views. 4.5 Billion is a big number no matter how it’s calculated, but it is important to understand numbers and their context if you’re going to talk about them. “If you post to a big community regularly, you’ll have a few million views very quickly,” Google+ user John Ellis pointed out in a comment about the change. “I saw a kid today with essentially no followers, who posts to teen communities and has 6 million views. This number is meaningless as depicted – they should be unique views, minimum. Or exclude Communities. Or be divided by some time, like per month. I’m still hoping it’s a bad joke, because April Fools or not, it is.”
You can hear the angst. As soon as numbers appear, we can’t help but want to compare ourselves, or worry about where they come from, or how they’re calculated. As I wandered around looking at profiles, a great many people with a good deal of real world influence and real world popularity have relatively few total content views. So what? What does a low Google+ content view count mean? Well, it means this: they don’t really use Google+. That’s it. Period.
That said, I’m sure the number will likely get used in some special influence algorithm. Klout+ maybe. At the very least, a flurry of posts comparing everyone’s profile view number is likely to commence. And that is unfortunate. This obsession we have with numbers in social media is more than a bit crazy. I won’t be reading any of those posts. At least not on purpose.
What can you do about it? Not much. Google gets to make the rules for its social network, just like Facebook gets to make the rules for its own. But you can turn it off on your own profile. That’s what I did. It’s easy. Go to plus.google.com/settings while logged into your account, scroll down to “Profile,” and make your selection.
I have an idea. Let’s all turn off that number and just worry about being social where we want to be social.