This is a longer version of a column that ran in MediaPost’s Social Media Insider. If you're using it, find me there at gplus.to/dberkowitz .
I’m done writing about Google+, at least for today. Fortunately, I still have enough material for a column thanks to the powers of crowdsourcing – the act of tapping the community to achieve a common objective. In this case, I posted a message on Google+, publicly asking, “Why does Google+ matter?”
My goal was to have enough “+1” votes (similar to Facebook “likes”) on responses to the posts to have the best answers rise to the top. There were plenty of thoughtful responses, but not enough votes distributed to pick clear favorites, so I used some editorial judgment. Note that a few responses appear on a reposted version of the question; I learned the hard way that the original comments don’t append to reposts.
That’s enough introduction. It’s time to hear from Google+ users themselves.
Mads Gorm Larsen: Search engine optimization (SEO) – you get into search engine results pages, with pictures and +1, and author links.
Mukund Mohan: I'm not sure about the SEO. In fact I think it’s a little less overwhelming than Facebook.
Seth Miller: It redefines the social network discussion from private (Facebook) & public (Twitter) to some hybridized form.
Robin Greenbaum: I'm getting great engagement here with people I'd have never interacted with otherwise! Hangouts are awesome. I had a hangout with Michael Dell yesterday!
Gavin Heaton: The circles are providing more conversational context within my stream rather than Facebook pages – so it feels more like my conversation rather than someone else's.
Shashi Bellamkonda: Search engine optimization (SEO): your profile and check-ins all will get a placement for your name on Google and a chance to showcase yourself. Time to remove links that don't matter from your profile. Conversation: you can engage with people who will benefit by the conversation and also broadcast "public" if you want (different from Twitter). My advice for small business: set up a profile, use Sparks to monitor keyword conversations, make a circle of customers, post useful content and have conversations with peers.
Mike Levin: Because it's modeled on day-to-day life instead of a college party.
Geoffrey Colon: 1. The merging of search with social. 2. While not so much about brands just yet, I feel brands will better be able to track and identify who within the network is +1’ing articles about them to build true social campaigns. Plus the video hangout really is the evolution of what social networks should be about. Video conferencing.
Aaron Goldman: G+ matters because it's a sharing network, not a social network. This was a deliberate move on Google's part and a lesson learned from Twitter. Don't try to recreate what isn't broken (Facebook) and is frankly too hard to catch up on. Instead strip out the key functionality (sharing) and provide a good UX around it. No question G+ has a better UX than Twitter.
Why does sharing matter?
1. Shares are critical signals for Google to refine search algorithms. PageRank was built on authority dictated by webmasters and their links. Better search algos will be dictated by real people and their sharing activity (likes, +1s, etc.)
2. Sharing is sticky. A sharing network gives Google users a reason to spend time within Google properties beyond in-and-out activities like search and email.
3. Sharing is a great way for Google to learn more about individuals and their preferences when it comes to ad targeting.
Shankar Gupta: It's the first potentially viable alternative to Facebook we've seen so far, in terms of the features it offers and overall usability.
Bryson Meunier: Though I haven't seen this yet, I think Google+ will ultimately matter if it can make Google search better. It's one thing to incorporate social data into search results, but if engines don't know what those social relationships are based on, they won't be able to use the data to increase relevance. With Circles, Google has the potential to show me results from my Good Taste in Music circle when I do music-related queries, rather than assuming that because I'm connected to someone that I care about their taste in music. Knowing the audience is essential for providing relevant results, and Google+ seems to signal an evolution of Google search to me even more than it does a Google social network.
Jordan Rohan: Google+ matters because without a formidable competitor, there is no legitimacy to a claim that any point of Internet centrality has peaked. The irony is that Google likely peaked when Facebook broadened beyond EDU… to the extent that Google+ can steal back momentum in social media, it could mark the peak for FB. Note to FB-fanboys (FB fb's ??): a peak, by definition, is an unpopular point of view and only becomes obvious with appropriate distance.
Stephanie Schwab: Not yet mentioned but already commented on quite a bit in my social circles (no pun intended): Collaboration and hangouts. In general, Google+ makes collaborating with colleagues or partners fun and easy. Create a circle and hangout together. In text or video. I sense that G+ has the power to change the way those of us who are virtual workers work – in many ways they could replace Basecamp and other collaborative tools – and I doubt they were trying to do that.
Brad Alperin: Google+ is ultimately going to matter not so much because it could be a better social network (It might), but because it will allow Google to better fulfill on its mission of "organizing the world's information." Google+ will enable Google to augment its unmatched powers of search (the so called "interest graph") with an even more personal slant based on a users’ personal connections and interactions (the social graph). I don't think Google is trying to build a better Facebook, but rather a far more subtle and useful Google.
Philip John Basile: It's Facebook grown up.
Astrida Valigorsky: Enter Google+ to upset the worlds of Klout, PeerIndex, TwitterGrader, and any other company that seeks to grade your personal social influence online. And it’s a good thing too. Why? Because the first social media networks we've been engaged in haven't been all that sophisticated. Friending and Defriending? Isn't that for high-school students? Filtering through tweets? Tedious. And for the truly old-school– using RSS to follow bloggers… who has time???
With better data and group management tools within Google+ we will be able to streamline those people and interests that matter to us most– but even more interesting, within it lies the potential to better allow us to connect to the people and interests we want to follow. This is a critical change in paradigm, that makes for a far more rewarding online experience than previous systems.
Jeff Peters: Here's why I think it matters. It lets me share what I want with whom I want. And by share, I mean conversations and relationships, as well as links/pics/videos/quotes.etc… I've been waiting a long time for something functional like G+. Sure, Facebook has its lists/groups, but it's not intuitive and it's not easy to use for more people. I think for the common user, it's very easy to understand the concept of "I'm going to share this with my family only, and this with my friends only, and this with my teammates only, and this with everyone." I've already personally uploaded more pictures here than I ever have on Facebook. Why? It's faster, easier (for me), and very simple to share them with whom I want. However, the most important reason thing that it may offer, is choice. A choice for a new network and a choice beyond Facebook.
Travis Wright: Google+ is going to change the way that we all use Google. They will use this new social layer to continue to customize our search experience. They will know exactly what we like and share, and our search results will adapt to those new findings. We are also going to be called to click the red notification button, which will allow Google to add some stickiness to their engine.
As someone who has done SEO since the 1990's, WAYYYY back in the day, it is interesting to see how this is evolving, and it is also interesting to see how this will affect the rankings. I would say that local will become an even more influential ranking factor, as location is a key indicator of intent. So, local SEO will become more important moving forward, as your results change based on where you are and the amount of +1's that your site has accrued. The merging of Mobile, Local, Search and Social has never been this close. This will have an effect on all of my existing and future clients for digital strategies.
Steve Plunkett: I agree with Travis… take Friendfeed, Buzz, Facebook, Twitter, sharing… mix them all up… Google gets it right.
Mark Ghuneim: Social is the key missing element from Google portfolio. This is not news. But what has become clear after using G+ is that the benefits extend way past just the data, and social search implications. Google+’s most important byproduct is that it instantly becomes the glue to navigate and derive increased value + usage from their existing product offerings and leads to adoption of products not used as frequently. It takes Google’s disparate offerings and products and provides context to them as a suite of related and connected services.
So, how did the crowd do here? What else would you add? Who gets the most +1’s? The crowd’s work isn’t done yet, and clearly Google’s just getting started.