Google’s +1 Should Make you Pause

Google’s +1 (pronounced: plus one) button could potentially be another dominant force in the social media world. Google’s infamous failures have included Google Wave, Google Accelerator and Google Answers but when they hit the ball it’s like watching the beautiful Lady Gaga in action. The +1 button is not unlike Facebook’s “Like” button. However, subtle differences distinguish +1 and make it something to pay attention to.

Facebook’s Like button promotes online interaction and sharing among a user’s group of “friends.” The Like button is very powerful because people are more likely to act upon recommendations from friends vs. strangers. Like has also become popular as an intuitive public rating system for all web content including videos, blogs and websites. The more likes and tweets your page has, the greater chance you have of going viral. Everyone loves their piece to go viral, but these spurts of fame have a tendency to burn out and die quickly. The weakness of the Like button is that Like offers only small window of visibility, either on a viewer’s news feeds or on their wall. The valuable personalized Likes are quickly buried and whatever positives the Likes once had- disappears. From Facebook’s perspective this is good because it encourages the user to keep posting to get the positive feedback. From the user’s perspective the constant quest for thumbs up can be exhausting.

Facebook’s little thumb needs to pay attention to two positive advantages Google’s +1 has that could potentially leave this hitchhiker in the dust. These are Google’s massive market penetration and the duration of +1’s influence.

The size and diversity of Google’s businesses alone makes Google’s +1 a little darling and a threat to the Like button. Google controls most of the advertising dollars on the Internet through search and they own high traffic sites like Youtube, Blogspot and Google Maps. In addition, they are determined to remain a player in the mobile device market, have recently developed their own browser and new apps are appearing daily. The +1 button will work seamlessly across all things Google and this enhances its value for advertisers, users and businesses.

You can also count on Google incorporating +1 into their Social Media algorithm in addition to Facebook and Twitter. Google is likely to disproportionately weight the +1 and this fact alone will increase +1’s market penetration.

Market duration relies and feeds off of Google’s market penetration. Google’s +1 doesn’t rely on a platform like Facebook to be useful and relevant to a user. Rather, +1s are displayed to a user anytime they use Google search. When a Google user is logged into Google they will be able to see the +1s from their friends along with their search results. Furthermore, this feature cleverly extends to paying Google Adword customers. The contextual placement of +1 is potentially very powerful. For example, let’s say a friend of yours is a horticulturist and he has +1ed public gardens all over the world. The next time you are in St. Louis and want something to do, your “public garden” search will include your friend’s +1 recommendation for Busch Gardens at the top of your search and you are likely to take his recommendation. Some reviewers have seen the “logged into Google requirement” as a limitation of the +1 rating system but this is irrelevant on smart phones and other mobile platforms. Moreover, +1s will potentially increase click through rates. People generally want whatever they think other people want. Google’s inclusion of +1s in Adwords should increase click though rates and dramatically impact Adword real estate.

It’s almost impossible for any webmasters and marketers to keep on top of all the new Internet developments, and it’s tempting to wait until +1 is established before jumping in with both feet. However, we think this is a fantastic idea and are taking the chance that it has legs. Source ranking is something search has never managed effectively and Google’s development of social layers and +1 has the potential to dramatically improve Goggle Search. +1 at the moment is source agnostic but the entire reason social media tags work comes back to the fact that a user will place a higher valuation on information based upon his/her perception of the source’s legitimacy, expertise and knowledge. Some recommendations are just more valuable than others and these are subjective judgments.

Furthermore, the +1 lends itself to the future introduction of a 100-point rating scale and this would finally create a useful Internet rating system. The American Robert Parker made his name and radically changed the world’s wine industry with his introduction of a 100-point scale. Google could easily do the same in the future with the +1.

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