When it comes to social, Google has failed to successfully execute. As captivating as Wave initially sounded, it turned out to be nothing more than a learning experience. Many feel the premature timing may have prevented it from living up to its hype. Getting there too early can be equally as devastating as being late to the party like the recent Buzz-kill that will never catch up to Twitter’s traction. Despite previous attempts at social, Google +1 certainly has the search expertise to back any efforts they decide to launch. What can we expect as Google strategically ventures deeper into “social search”? Is this the unofficial beginning of “Google Circles”?
Facebook and Google are both very fortunate to pull as much data as they currently do and they will have a tough road ahead to keep it this way. In the end, they are both competing for advertising revenue, but Google’s sketchy data collection tactics have been under heavier scrutiny. Meanwhile, the “Like” button has gone viral with developers and Facebook continues to aggressively mark its territory. The +1 can be interpreted as an obvious reaction.
One major difference about the “Like” button is that its data remains in a closed network and is unindexed by search engines that matter. +1 recommendations have the ability to help improve Google’s PageRank algorithm. Not only will the +1 influence search results, but it has the opportunity to make search a lot more personalized. From a user’s perspective, the +1 will help to see through the garbage quicker and magnify the discovery of relevant content. It will also help to ensure that critical material doesn’t get overlooked nearly as often.
For developers, the +1 may present some interesting new engagement opportunities. Publishers will eventually be able to add the +1 to their own sites alongside the existing “Like” and “Tweet” buttons. The “Like” button essentially offers publishers a kickback in that if you get “Liked” you get exposure within Facebook. However, the +1 offers publishers a way to get better exposure within search results. Depending on the target market, it is debatable which is more advantageous, but you can guarantee publishers will leverage them both.
Instead of tackling the “Like” button head on, Google has strategically chosen to utilize search, the technology that it knows best, in order to obtain the valuable recommendation data that is has been longing to pull. Since the +1 will also be integrated within Google search ads, it has the potential to make them more engaging and consequently more profitable. Will it be easy to game the system using resources like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to boost +1s? This is something Google will have to carefully monitor.
At a high level, the +1 is a reminder that a Google account can be used for something other than just Gmail. It is another chance to pick up where Buzz failed to find its critical mass. The real challenge will be to figure out the best way to integrate existing social graphs and achieve mainstream usage.
What are some of YOUR predictions? Can we expect to see Microsoft launch Bing’s +2?