Google +1: Endorsing the Peoplesphere


ADOTAS – Google has rolled out a new feature called +1, which allows users to endorse pages that come up in searches. What you say? This sounds kinda similar to the Facebook Like? When we publicly announce our adoration of a comment, link, photo or any other content?

When I read about this new feature, I was reminded of something Unica cofounder and CEOYuchun Lee said during our Marketing Innovation Summit: “The internet is transforming from a network of pages to a network of people.”

Google’s search engine listing is the ultimate manifestation of a network of pages. The new technology will help people decide which of those pages has popular appeal and which we can dismiss.

Internet companies are quickly seeing that a network of people has the ability to push content further because of the trust inherent in a social circle. Numerous surveys cite the fact that consumers don’t trust companies. Content endorsed by peers finds its way across the Internet quickly and has the highest likelihood of garnering new fans. The communication ecosphere has become a peoplesphere.

The Uptake of This Hinges On…

Google’s +1 feature is a little bit of a gamble if you ask me. Let’s consider their attempt at social media, specifically microblogging: Buzz. Google Buzz represents far less than 1% of all the social media activity out there. The majority of the, forgive the pun, “buzz,” is generated by the two gorillas: Facebook and Twitter.

Data from IBM Email Optimization’s Social Email Analytics Technology based on a single large international retailer’s seven-day social media activity.

In order for Google’s new social endorsement technology to succeed, people have to sign up and create Google profiles according to the +1 site. Until I had read that page, I honestly forgot I even had a Google profile. I Googled myself and there it was, a horribly neglected Google profile with an ancient picture of me.

In addition, the owners of websites will have to add a snippet of code to their pages in order to generate the +1 image in a search. This requires a little work and the active participation of website owners, as opposed to the more passive Like button that appears everywhere on Facebook and is an iconic image on web pages and their SWYN (Share With Your Network) mechanisms.

New Bookmarks for a New Age

Profiles and adding code represent the mechanics of the new feature, which in essence is a trusted bookmark from friends’ colleagues and nameless other users who have endorsed sites. We’re accustomed to seeing how many people have shared a page to Facebook and Twitter and some of us even regularly engage in social sharing through website SWYNs.

This new feature allows users to store “+1’s” locally or share them with the world through their profiles. I’m not sure people are ready to replace their browser bookmarks with +1 bookmarks. Plus, thanks to Google indexing tweets, I can always Google that tweet any of my buddies’ has sent.

Learning From the Past

The future is not all doom and gloom. I can see this being another input source if they find a way to port +1’s into Facebook creating Like’s or being able to share an endorsement from one channel into another, the way that tweets appear in a news feed.

Google will have a relatively hard time building momentum, as Buzz demonstrated, by being a walled garden of social endorsement. In order to succeed, they have to create activity across channels and allow +1’s to be shared across them. The fastest form of uptake of a new feature like this will be through the use and endorsement of the endorsing technology itself. For that to happen, it has to find its way onto Facebook and Twitter.

We’ll see if Google takes the go-it-alone approach and defines the social media market by creating enough coolness around a new feature for users to adopt it. Hopefully they’ve learned their lessons from Buzz (and previously Wave) and will create an open framework that capitalizes on the successes of other endorsement mechanisms and processes. After all, a network of people is a network of habits and the best road to success is to be habitually better.



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