6 reasons why Google+ will Zuckerpunch Facebook

13 Jul

Simply put, Google = search, Facebook = social, but when Facebook’s 2006 deal with Microsoft expanded to include search, Google got nervous. If the world’s largest social network could offer full search then why would you go anywhere else?
Fast forward and we’d all have to name our children based on availability of profile names, likes would replace exam results, BBQ invites to friends would have to be approved by the Lords of Facebook… digital apocalypse!

Google+ squares up to FacebookStepping back to reality, Google needs a social product in order to protect its search empire. Initial offerings Google Wave & Buzz were overly complex and poorly received, but its latest offering, Google+, looks to have the cojones to square up to Facebook’s dominance of the social domain.

It’s early days, but a few of us here have been playing with Google+ for a week or so  and here are 6 reasons why I think it can step into the ring.

1. The +1 button
If you haven’t seen it already then you will shortly see the Google +1 button appear alongside other social media icons on a website near you. It functions much like the Facebook Like button as a way to quickly flag something to your social network.

The difference is that the +1 button also appears alongside Google search results and if like me and millions of others, you sign into gmail in the morning, you’re going to start seeing those +1s a lot more than Facebook’s Like button. As your social contacts click those +1s their preferences will appear in your search results bringing the incredible power of peer-review to Google search, a feature that was until now, missing.

2. SEO & Control
Google have suggested that people clicking on +1 for your content will boost your web-site’s placement in search results. Dutch company SEOeffect detailed an experiment in using the +1 to augment their search rankings and found a strong positive effect.

If placing a +1 button on your website can improve search ranking and ultimately traffic to your website, this is a going to be a huge draw for millions of website owners, brand managers and stakeholders uneasy about ceding control over their loaned content by placing it on Facebook.

3. Integration
If you use one of the legion of google apps, then you’ll notice that Google+ is built into the suite interface. You can monitor all Google+ events (updates, messages, etc.) as well as share content while reading gmail or composing a letter in Google docs. A visit to Facebook requires a new browser window and login. While hardly a back-breaking chore in itself, good user experience and usability is about streamlining tasks, removing small hurdles and making the actual interaction invisible.

4. Usability
When Facebook moved the messages notification, it took me months for me to find it again, and I’ve only recently figured out that control+return let’s you force a line break in the message/update panel and not submit a partially composed update or message.
With lessons learned from Wave and Buzz, Google+ seems to have the got the balance right and delivered a product with solid user experience and clarity, sprinkled with some charming touches. It makes the usability mess that are the peripheral functions in Facebook look old fashioned.

5. Filtering
Understanding that people have different relationships with one another and what offends one audience may delight another, Google has created a simple way for user to group people. Called Circles, they allow you to choose which group will see a particular update and provide a way to filter the stream of incoming updates. Filtering is the strength of apps such as Tweetdeck and it’s still surprising to me that it hasn’t been added to the core of Facebook with its ‘everybody sees everything’ approach.

6. Curation
Built into Google+ is a service called Sparks. Think of it as an RSS reader. Sparks will find content based on your interests, but its strength is its integration into the Google+ interface. It has the same sharing functionality as the streams for your Circles so sharing is effortless. Facebook doesn’t have any curation functionality other than what your friends have already found or what’s served to you via ads. Another + for Google (excuse the pun).

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10 Responses to “6 reasons why Google+ will Zuckerpunch Facebook”

  1. Doug Brown July 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    Amazing how a little turf war can lead to such innovation and enhanced user experience. This is the best review of Google+ I’ve read yet Tom – how cool is it that it comes from a Copelander.

    It will be interesting to watch and see how long it will take before advertising and promotion opportunities that we see on Facebook Fan pages migrate into the Google+ experience.

  2. tom hammarberg July 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Cheers Doug. Advertising will take the gloss off for sure, but google have been pretty respectful of the user experience when it comes to adding advertising so I’m not too worried.

  3. Stephan Rosger July 13, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    As a moderately new Google user myself, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing all of the new features with a clean slate and very few preconceived expectations. I’ve found the newly integrated Google+ great on all of the levels that Tom touched on here.

    The only thing that gets me are copyright issues. Like Google’s photo service Picasa & Google Buzz, you give up all rights to your work once you sign up (http://bit.ly/pb3Tm7). This was kind of a bummer for me because I was really excited about the idea of promoting work on this platform.

    I also agree with Doug, this is one of the best reviews I’ve seen as well. Thanks Tom!

  4. tomhammarberg July 13, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    my take on it from the perspective of sharing existing content, but I understand the concern if you see it as another way to promote your content. Having said that, I can’t recall a single occasion where a large social network has taken a piece of content uploaded in good faith and used it for their own gain. To do so would be social suicide.
    I suspect it’s most likely legalese allowing them to use a network of servers that might not be their own and compress & re-size photos etc in order to display them.

    But at the end of the day and to coin a phrase I read recently. “if it’s free, then you’re the product being sold.”
    great comment Stephan

  5. Jordan Clarke July 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Great review, thanks. I was trying to decide if signing up for yet another social network would be worth it, and this does a nice job of outlining the benefits.

    Is there going to be a Google+ equivalent to the Facebook Fan pages that are so popular with businesses these days?

  6. tomhammarberg July 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    From what I’ve heard then business/brand pages will arrive later in the year.
    From Google VP of Products, Bradley Horowitz:

    ”we are not currently supporting brands, organizations, and non-human entities in the Google+ field trial.
    Supporting these non-human entities is an obviously great feature – we have no allergy to it at all! It’s just not part of the system we are currently testing.”

    to me, that suggests that there will be something down the line for businesses or ‘non-human entities’. I’m betting the VP has a tech/programming background 😉

  7. Jason Finnerty July 14, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    well written, well conceived, well delivered – well done, Tom +1 to you!

  8. AMc_UK July 14, 2011 at 5:53 am #

    Interesting review Tom.
    I’m currently on the fence for Google+ as I no longer have a “day job” interest in this type of thing.
    I’m joining the increasing backlash against Facebook and their ever changing, privacy surrendering adventure in UI design.
    This weeks task is to guess what part of your private information has been randomly exposed to the world and where the button is hidden to reset the default “tell anyone” preference.

    The first time I uploaded a picture and it started to use face recognition to tag people (incorrectly) I began to seriously worry about what FB could and would be prepared to do with the information we ‘share’ via Facebook.

    Ironically since everyone and my Mum and Dad are now connected to me on Facebook I speak my mind more on Twitter where my anonymity is greater even though my reach is broader

    @AMc_UK

  9. tomhammarberg July 14, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    -Jason
    thank you Jason. I had to resist the urge to use the +1 gag. You get points (or +1s) for releasing the pressure!

    -AMc
    After their privacy gaff with Buzz, I’ve read very promising reports that on this one that Google are actively seeking user feedback and more importantly acting on it. On balance and accepting that as a business, Google will be looking to make money on this, either directly or by way of supporting adwords & promoted search, I trust them more than I do Facebook.

    thanks for the comment Andy

  10. Brian Stecyk July 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Great analysis. I just received a notice that Google is testing Google+ for businesses next week because of demand from businesses. Announced last night.

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