Silent CEO, shadowy avatars fuel Google+ 'ghost town' vibe

It would seem Larry Page's voice problems extend beyond public speaking

As soon as I read that voice problems were keeping Larry Page from speaking in public, I headed straight to his Google+ account to see how the stricken CEO was using his company's social networking platform to help maintain communications with the masses.

He isn't.

page

As has been the case before, Page has gone eerily silent on Google+ -- at least as pertains to public posts - an absence which, in my opinion, doesn't exactly help counter all that pesky "ghost town" talk about the platform. This time it's been a month since Page last had anything to share with the entirety of his Google+ following, which now numbers three million strong, or 10 times as many as he had when this issue popped up last September.

(5 years later: Do Apple's first iPhone ads ring a bell?)

Three million souls longing to hear from Larry, yet for the last month they've gotten nary a post as reward for their decision to follow Page (again, save perhaps for those with whom the CEO may be communicating through his private Google+ circles).

It didn't look good last year ... or today.

And that was before I spotted these six sickly avatars on Page's Google+ page.

ghosts

Yes, I thought "ghostly" - and maybe that's not quite right; shadowy might be better - but they belong to six of the 10 user accounts that Google+ was displaying on Page's page as being representative of the 3 million-member throng that's said to be following him. As anyone with social-media experience knows, a user who hasn't bothered to replace their place-holder avatar with something more personal is either a newbie, not genuinely engaged, a spammer, or all three. (These six seemed not genuinely engaged, at best.)

Now it's worth noting that the gallery of avatars - which a user can choose to hide from public view -- changes every time the page is refreshed, and having done so a few dozen times this afternoon, I can tell you that six of 10 ghosts is on the high side for Page.

In fact, there were a few refreshes - very few -- that showed no ghosts.

Although another one did my original half-dozen blanks one blank better.

ghosts

As I've argued before, Page is under no more of an obligation to post publicly to Google+ than any other busy CEO. However, if he is going to do it from time to time - as has been the case - it would be in Google's best interests for him instead to do it regularly, otherwise it appears as though he doesn't find the activity compelling.

He also might want to think about hiding that gallery so people don't see the ghosts.

Oh, and get well, Larry.

(Sunday update: Page made a public post yesterday afternoon. Coincidence. Your guess is as good as mine.)

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