Will Google+ grow by compelling us with Value or by Blackmail?

Dec 03, 2011 Comments Off by

Will Google+ be successful? Will Google+ grow by becoming compelling for users by delivering better and unique value or will it be compelling by power-based blackmail?

As a social network, Google+ is clearly well behind Facebook and is struggling to get traction. Personally, I use Facebook a lot and I’m grappling with the possible need to use two social networks. Why would I want to?

But my view is changing, especially because of two interesting aspects to Google+. In a nutshell, these are Improved SEO which for some business users will be compelling, and Google Hangouts which could easily catch on, especially with broadband video and smartphones with cameras.

But is Improved SEO compelling value or is just Google trying to blackmail us?

Value or Blackmail?

If Google+ is to win as a social network, it needs to offer more compelling features and benefits to attract and retain users, but…

Will Google+ be compelling by delivering better and unique value to users or will it be compelling by power-based blackmail?

Apparently, Google is now starting to give preference in its search results to those individuals and businesses who are users of Google+ social network. This is claimed to be because Google can consider these people to have more authority and credibility, and therefore Google’s search results will be better, more relevant and more accurate.

It could be easy and tempting to agree with Google on this. After all, the more you know someone, the more you can choose to trust them or not. But just because someone uses the Google+ social network does not make their information more valuable or more correct or more trustworthy than someone who does not use the network. Google does not know someone just because the person uses the Google+ social network.

So, is this blackmail from the all-powerful Google? Is this Google’s Blackmail to ‘encourage’ those businesses or people who want to appear higher in Google search result rankings to shift from Facebook (which now has little or no SEO value with Google) to start using the G+ network instead?

Having the Google+ +1 icon and the G+ badge on your website is now a positive search signal to Google that your site is more credible. How do you get the badge? By joining the Google+ network.

Like All of Us, Google Seeks Love, Trust and Mutual Respect

In an excellent article called “Is Google+ Imperative For SEO?“, Chris Crum, writing in WebProNews said ‘One thing you will do well to keep in mind is that “Google+ is Google.” This is a mentality that Google has expressed on more than one occasion. If you’re ignoring Google+, you’re ignoring Google. Remember, if you want Google to RESPECT you (give you more search visibility), you should probably respect Google and the means you’re given. Google+ is only going to get more integrated with every aspect of Google.’

So, if you want Google’s respect, then don’t ignore Google+. It’s that simple. Is it blackmail? Personally, I don’t think so – but please tell me what you think. And you can tell me here, on Facebook, Twitter or on Google+. Yes, I’m now a G+ user with both a profile for me as an individual and a Page for my business stuff.

Do I fully understand everything about Google+ yet? No, and frankly, I don’t understand everything about Facebook either, especially with its continual changes.

Do you even want to learn about Google+?

Do you want to use Google+ social network? Maybe, maybe not.

As I said to a group the other day, if you want to learn to surf, it helps to also know how to swim – and you don’t learn that from standing on the cliff near the ocean watching other people in the water.

You don’t have to jump off the cliff, you simply have to decide to go down to the beach and get started. It’s the same with learning anything new in the digital world. (Enough with surfing, let’s get back to Google.)

Being Found in Google is Not a Right, it’s a Privilege

Let’s remember that no business has any ‘entitlement’ to being listed in Google or displayed within Google’s search results. How Google choose to display its results is totally up to Google.

Right now, the compelling value proposition for your business to use Google+ may not be much to do with Google’s value as a social network, but as a credibility and authority building network for helping you gain better SEO results. Yes, it’s ironic, but the digital world is full of ironies and paradoxes.

The online world is full of small digital publishers, and yep, I’m one too. Anyone can publish online, but not everyone will ever get found online, especially within Google search results. Most businesses won’t be displayed in Google’s first page of Top 10 Search Results, despite the best efforts at SEO. With over 100,000 new websites going online EVERY DAY, some will find their way to the top of Google’s results, but most won’t. That’s just how it is.

Being displayed in Google’s search results is a privilege, not a right. And if Google wants to change the way it includes or excludes its listings, then that is up to Google.

And let’s also remember that Google is not a public service, it’s a business. A business that needs to survive and prosper by delivering value to its many different customers. The only real customers of Google are the ones paying Google money. Most of us don’t pay Google money – but we’re happy to take value from Google through its search results and other free Google services.

Thirdly, let’s remember that if you are using Google’s services and not paying Google any money, then it’s usually because you are part of a product Google is selling to someone else. This is usually in the form of you being part of an audience Google is providing to businesses who are paying advertising dollars to target you and reach you.

(It’s the same with Facebook. They don’t love us, they just want to know all our private and personal information so they can sell better targeted advertising to us.)

The guys at Google may look like benevolent Gods, but they are not. Google is a business and as a business, it is engaged in a massive global battle with Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and others. In the battle between Facebook and Google, don’t expect either party to show any commercial mercy to each other. Each is out to win. And each will do whatever it takes.

Most of us humble users play our part by using their FREE services and being part of the products they provide to advertisers. And ocassionally, we may choose to pay money to use their advertising capabilities. It’s then – and only then – that we become their customers rather than just part of their products.

And why do we use their free services? Because we get value from them, not because we are compelled to. That’s why I think Google’s linking of G+ with Search Results is NOT blackmail, but a pretty smart strategy for Google to adopt. And one we all should have seen coming a long time ago.

Chris Crum’s article is well worth a read for the many SEO tips it provides, but before you go check it out, let’s think about Google+ as a social network…

Google’s TV Commercial for Google+

Take a look at the TV commercial that Google has just released in the USA. (It’s down below at the bottom of the page.) Presumably, the TVC provides Google’s view on what will make users adopt Google+.

G+ allows users to create Circles – or groups – of people so that you can restrict who sees what messages and updates. It was pretty easy for Facebook to add this type of feature to its system (as I predicted months ago). Facebook did this by allowing users to create Lists and allow users to restrict updates just to members of a list.

So, there has to be more than just that to get people to use G+ as a social network.

Hangouts could be the Compelling Feature

Circles is good, but in my opinion, not a real differentiator for success. The thing I find the most interesting in the G+ TVC is the Hangout section of Google+. That’s the guys and gals in the shared video-hookup. I’ve only recently started playing with G+ myself, and am yet to really check out the Hangouts in detail, but they look pretty cool in the TVC. And interesting for users…

Hangouts are collaborative places on the G+ network. They are a bit like Pages can Hangout with 20 people at a time, whereas Profiles can hangout with 10 people. Hangouts are places where you can share Google Docs, but you can also do group videoconferencing between people in the Hangout. This is an extension of Google Talk video chat, but now with people in your G+ social network.

It’s easy to create or join a Hangout and the Google video software downloads and installs automatically. Then you can video chat with multiple people in your Hangout.

New York Times Experiment

The New York Times did a Google Hangout experimental video hookup on 23 November. You can read about it here and watch the video recording the NYT guys made of it. As the Tech editor of the NYT says on the video, it was the first time in the 150+ year history of the NYT that they have done a live video chat.

It turns into a fascinating chat, especially when a social media women guest in the hangout gives her views and tips on how to really use Google+ and Hangouts. This really got me thinking, and I’ll write more about this next time. But watch it and you too will start to see some of the potential of this new tool.

Hangouts on G+ could become a very compelling feature for people to use for social networking – and a potentially great tool for businesses to connect with small groups of customers, especially in the increasingly broadband and video future.

Facebook can have video chats, but Hangouts are far more than this. How long will it take Facebook to add this as well… I guess we’ll see.)

As always, I’d love your thoughts on this…

Marketing, Smarter Tools, Social Media
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