The latest hot topic is the launch of Google’s +1 feature. While some are singing the Facebook ‘Like’ killer song, others are professing it to be a smart business tactic and others are having blackhat dreams. Of course, not long after it was announced, I received an invite to a Facebook question on the subject.
This poll led to some great discussion and I added my two cents as well (I’ll let Mike tell you about that on his blog) . The truth is, I’m just not that excited about it. I don’t see it doing well, and while it may rope a few businesses, and a number of sites will likely use it, it just doesn’t have the power.
Is +1 Really a Social Thing? No, but Yes
When people originally started picturing +1, they compared it to the Facebook ‘Like’ feature. There’s no denying the similarities, at least not after it is out in the wild and on your favourite sites.
Unfortunately, for social media lovers, +1 is missing a key feature known as aggregation and conversation. Facebook does this, and does it well. So, other than seeing an ad that some guy from Tuktoyaktuk I know through Twitter clicked or +1′d (which is a social failure all on its own), it has no real purpose.
That isn’t the only role +1 is speculated to have on the Web, however. And really, iIt isn’t exactly meant to be social.
+1 As a Business Thing and Cash Grab
Not long after it launched, Search Engine Watch published several speculations about the real purpose behind +1. Aaron Wall and Loren Baker said it’s purely a business thing, created specifically to push Adsense ads, Google Accounts, and other features. I completely believe it. Anyone who read the Adwords blog that day would too, and let’s not forget Google is in this to make money.
By launching +1, it can push businesses to use Place pages and other local, business specific features it has been known to monetize in the past. This is fully their right, and just may work, but I highly doubt they’ll be successful.
Ruud Hein of Search Engine People also spent some time speculating how the data gathered through +1 could be used for ranking purposes. Ok, I could maybe see that working too, but…
Google Forgets About One Important Thing
There is no doubt in my mind that, if business owners see their ads will be found more easily because someone clicked a button, they’ll pay to opt into the feature. This side of the feature will likely fly.
What they did forget about, however, is that people actually have to click and use the +1 feature, and they have to be in your social network. Will people really use it? I honestly can’t see it.
Facebook’s ‘Like’ and Twitter buttons already do this and have already been adopted by users. Why would they switch now? I sure wouldn’t. Right now, I have two groups of people I share things with. Business associates, with whom I share things on Twitter, and family/friends, who I share with on Facebook. What incentive or benefit do people have to switch?
The other issue is that people actually have to go back to the SERP at this point to +1 something. Now, I don’t know about you, but I spend a fair amount of time wandering online. I jump from link to link, switch tabs, and do a fair bit of digging. Why in the world would I waste time researching something or pressing the back button repeatedly to find a stupid button that may or may not be seen. Others, such as Lee Odden and Jon Henshaw have expressed similar concerns.
Here’s another conundrum Google has: I have three distinct social circles: 1) Friends and family who don’t know and don’t care about what I’m mumbling about, using, and sharing online because it’s usually work related. 2) Work related people who actually may be interested in the things I share. 3) Friends and acquaintances, who understand and may be interested in the odd tidbit, but really could care less for the most part.
Why would I share personal things I like with group #2? Why would I share work related things with group #3? In the SERPs, they get it all, even if it’s research for a client project. On my social networks, I can share it with people who are already looking at what I have to say. If it’s personal, I share it on Facebook. Work related stuff gets shared on Twitter. Why would I need a third?
I would also like to add that what I find relevant, quality, and interesting is only shared by a small percentage of my social connections. Many times, I pass up the links they share elsewhere because they simply aren’t that valuable, in my opinion. Having these same links show up in the SERPs isn’t going to make me any more interested.
What Google Needs To Do If It Ever Hopes To Go Social In Any Way
I think marketers and Web-savvy people pretty much agree that Google sucks at anything social. They just don’t seem to grasp the concept, and either mimic things other companies already do well, or create something so disjointed it’s essentially useless as a collaboration or social tool. Google has yet to decide where it stands in a world out of its control.
The way I see it, businesses are jumping into social media with both feet and figuring out what to do with it all afterward. Many of them post without any real central location or any way to access it all. They fail to create a hub of value.
Google, one the other hand, has already been including features such as tweets and status updates in the search results. What it really needs to do is aggregate all social content and serve it up much like it does in the search results already. However, give users an option to filter it globally, within their social circles, and divided by lists.
Give users a global dashboard, much like some social apps already do, where they can see all of their social networks at once, search their content, and find what they need. Create a hub that consumers can use to see a company’s social interactions and reviews all in one place.
Greplin is already very much like this for your own social stuff, and Trunkly is great for aggregating several sites into one place, but they both still have a long way to go, if they intend to become an aggregated social hub. Sadly, they need access, power, and money. Sort of like what Google already has, but has dedicated mostly to neat toys. In short, Google needs to stick to what it does best: search.
The other thing Google needs to do is connect all of its services together so that they play nice with each other. My Motorola ATRIX phone automatically picks up all of my contacts, including those stored in Google contacts, and puts them all together in one central location where all of my apps can access and use them. Why doesn’t Google do that?
Of course, I’m not sure I’d want Google having quite that much information about me, but it already has way more information about me than any other company on the planet, most of which it can gather without permission or a password. Make things like Google Docs easily sharable and workable right from the major social networks. I’d love to be able to share a calendar or item from Google Docs with a quick push of a button or two, or define groups for collaborative work, without having to set up each site separately. Remove the repetition! And for goodness sakes, make sure all it’s current offerings are integrated and work together!
They have true potential here, and simply are failing to use it.
April 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Marketing | 6 comments