Yesterday, Google announced the arrival of +1, also known as the "this is pretty cool" tool, according to the company's blog. This announcement comes on the heels of Google's recent foray into search recommendations based on user social connections, or Google Social Search. The latter is designed to provide users who are logged into Google with relevant content in their search results that's created or shared by the user's social network via Twitter and other sites. +1 seeks to one up the user's experience, according to product manager Rob Spiro, by allowing the Google user's connections to share recommendations through Google's new offering, which will appear directly in search results.
If you think +1 bears any similarity to Facebook's "Like" button, you are not alone. Moreover, rather than seeming innovative it appears that Google is integrating what is already a popular feature on Facebook's social networking platform into Google search results. However, Google won't yet comment on whether Facebook contacts will be integrated into +1, as contacts from users' Gmail address book, Google Reader, Buzz and eventually, Twitter will be.
Conversation online has been abundant since Google's +1 announcement, most notably on Twitter and Quora, where one user asked, "Will Google +1 be successful?" While I shy away from prophesying, I'd like to point to exhibit a: Google Buzz. With high expectations Google attempted to curtail Twitter's growth in 2010 through the release of its buzzed about Buzz. However, as Tweeters the world over already knew, Twitter does it best. According to eMarketer, 20.6 million US adult Internet users will use Twitter at least once a month this year, up 26.3% over 2010. Meanwhile, Google has said that "tens of millions of people have checked Buzz out," but we haven't seen more solid figures released. And while I surely "checked it out," my Buzz has remained offline since then. There's also that pesky case, which Google Buzz has been debating about with the FTC because they were found to be sharing more information than users reasonably expected, but I digress.
While the Internet will render its verdict on +1 in due time, it's imperative to think about how +1 could affect existing notions of influence and reputation management in a post-"Like" social media environment. For example, when measuring and reporting social media trends to clients of their brands and competitors, will our current combination of "Likes," "Followers" and correlating percentage changes (etc.) be sufficient? Also, Facebook and Twitter users opt-in to connect, share and amplify content on their platforms and brands are able to engage users effectively and influence their behavior in those environments. Given Google's recently failed attempts to socialize their tools and offerings (exhibit b: Google Wave), can brands expect to leverage the integral two-way communication that's needed to make social media engagement possible?
What are your thoughts? Do you think +1 will wave past Buzz in terms of adoption?
Editor's note: Since +1 is in beta testing, most people will not see the feature in their search results unless they opt-in. To activate it, log in to Google.com, then go to Google's Experimental Labs and click "Join this experiment".
Follow Pedro L. Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/plrodriguez