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Google’s social revolution: From network to business model

And finally there it was: Google Plus (or +). Almost every blog, national and international, talked about it and it even made the news. And everyone had an opinion, despite of the fact that they had access or not. We already discussed the Google +1 button here on Multilingual Search, but now we have the complete social network.

There are a lot of great introduction posts, so I will not delve into the mechanics. But Google Plus is more than just a “social network” or a “Facebook clone”. It embodies a new way of thinking and operating for Google and it is actually much, much more. And everything Google is does, is to make more money, or at least keep its current money cows (especially online advertising).

Google Plus in summary

As said, I will not go into the basics of Google Plus. A lot of you will probably already have an account and are familiar with how it works. For those of you who are interested, here an overview of great articles:

Google: Introducing the Google+ project: Real-life sharing, rethought for the web
Google’s own press release, with handy instruction videos.

State of SearchHow to use Google+ – a quick guide and thoughts on Google Plus
Google+ tested by State of Search. Nice recap.

State of SearchThe first responses from the expert marketeers
Wat do the experts say?

WiredInside Google+ – how the search giant plans to go social
A very lengthy article, but worth the read. See how important social is to Google, and how the organisation has changed to adapt to the human side of the web. A great look behind the scenes.

The integration of Google Plus

One of the first tests Google revealed that Google’s own employees found Google Plus too difficult. It was like Facebook, in its entirety, after being in stealth mode for 7 years, was released all at once. That is why Google decided to drop some of the Google Plus features and make it more simple. This means that there are a couple of features already lined up, waiting for Google Plus’ users to be familiar with the current features.

One of the toughest obstacles was the integration of Google Plus with other Google products. Google took its time to get this right. Wired describes Google Plus not as a typical product release, but as the “result of a lengthy and urgent effort involving almost all of the company’s products”.

During development more than a dozen Google products were involved. Google goes on saying that Google Plus is not a “Facebook killer”, but a transformation to give the people a better Google. Fun fact: Google mentions a research which shows users are just a little bit more satisfied with Facebook then they are with the IRS.

This complete company approach to Google Plus shows in a lot of Google’s current products:

All these changes make Google more human, personal and social. They put the user at the centre of everything, and the user’s network plays an important part.

The social aspect of Google will become more and more important. Google Plus is still in its testing phase and Google does not want to make the same mistakes they did with Wave and, especially, Buzz (with Buzz they created a complete network, connecting people without permissions, a big no no).

The social future

Google Plus is here to stay. It is a product that Google has high expectations of. Soon we will see more and more features, and the social aspect of Google will start to become even more visible. Seo by the Sea discusses patents showing a direction Google could take. Instant chatting is one of them, where browsing the web becomes even more social. It also shows Google looking into options for showing human Questions/Answers (like Aardvark) in the search results. Just as scientific papers can give you the right answer, so can users from your own network.

Add to all this Google Plus and the increasing integration amongst all the Google products and Google is getting more and more “tailor made”.

Business model

But Google is not making its company more social for nothing. Google knows that social holds the future (at least in some areas) and Google wants to be biggest player. It must have frustrated Google that Facebook would not share its oh so valuable user data. Well, Google must have thought, why not create our own network, build our own community and gather the information ourselves.

And Google has tried to avoid making the same mistakes Facebook and Buzz made. Google and Google Plus have to be known for their privacy and control. “You can trust us with your information”. And by giving Google Plus users the option to share certain bits of information only with certain people (Circles) Google has given the public a nice tool and a sense of security. But one mistake, one slip up and Google’s carefully crafted image can be destroyed.

For now, Google is trying to gain that trust and get more and more people on the Google Plus bandwagon. And with that, the information will come. And that information can be another source of revenue for Google. Besides the “social graph”, the constant stream of personal information and messages, users can tell Google there interests with Sparks. Google will then serve relevant and newsworthy content. Wired says:

“…but it’s reasonable to assume that before long, the company will use its algorithmic powers to produce a single flow that skillfully mixes those apples and oranges. Google has already pulled off a much more complicated version of that trick with Universal Search, which includes web pages, images, videos, books, Tweets, news items and other formats among its results. And that’s only the beginning. With its deep resources of information about its users, Google is capable of delivering a comprehensive collection of information, tailored exactly to one’s needs and interests”

Even more to the point:

“This mother of all streams would be the equivalent of an intravenous feed of information, with inclusion of all the vital content from our social graph and the world at large (Google calls this the “interest graph”). It would scroll forever, and everything would be relevant. If Google’s original goal was to expeditiously dispatch us elsewhere, with this near-clairvoyant stream, Google could turn us into search potatoes who never leave.”

Where Google’s previous goal was to make people leave as soon as possible, by giving them the best search results, it now wants to keep them as long as possible by serving them a constant stream of relevant, interesting information.

And that is where the money is: when we all start using Google Plus, and Google has gained the trust of its users, they can slowly start molding the internet to its users needs. And that also means: ads that are really relevant.

It also means: more (and better) ways for companies to advertise. Ads can be shown in the regular search engine (with better targeting), but can also be added to Google Plus. In the Sparks stream, ads can be shown that are highly relevant and are in line with the interests of the user. And there is a lot of white space in Google Plus when you log on, which just screams “money”, eh.. I mean, ads.

But Google has a long way to go. A road filled with obstacles, but one that Google probably has mapped out. Making Google more social will make Google better. Better for its user, and better for Google itself, as in: more profits.

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2 Responses to Google’s social revolution: From network to business model

  1. Jeroen Smeekens says:

    @Gary Fox: Thanks. Great mention of business pages. That will be interesting. Google Places gives business owners hardly any control, I reckon Google Plus Business Pages will give business owners much more options and control. An integration with Google +1 and Analytics could make this really interesting.

    But first Google has to attract those precious users and gather the data. After that, it’s game on and start monetizing.

  2. Gary Fox says:

    Really good article and I agree that Google has a great opportunity here to gain traction with users through ‘sticky’ social content. The next milestone will be how they use the business pages and integrate search and ads; this could really change the game.


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