How Google+ could actually compete with Facebook
This is my site Written by Dan Fletcher on December 9, 2012 – 8:44 am

I am heavy user of Google products. Not just the ubiquitous Gmail. Not just search. I represent six figures of Adwords spend collectively on projects I work on, maybe seven figures in total. In other words, Google sees direct cash from me and businesses I support. So I am a customer as well as a user. So I feel invested in Google and I have been scratching my head about how Google could deal with the massive competitor Facebook. I don’t like Facebook very much because of privacy concerns, either personally or professionally, but I am forced to use it massively. For some businesses it is simply the way that you can get to your customers. Less so since the payed Promoted Posts that Facebook has introduced, but the point still stands. People are on Facebook more than anywhere else, so if you want them you go there for some kinds of businesses.

I have been asking myself how Facebook could be challenged? How would you do it successfully? I know the answer is not Google+ in its current form. But what I couldn’t figure out what form would it have to take in order for Google+ to actually compete with Facebook.

And here it is. I found a complete, simple explanation about how it could be done painlessly. The article is written by Devin Coldewey over at Techcrunch. I hear-by proclaim that Devin Coldewey is a genius and that Google should hire him immediately to fix what they see as their core future product.  I will mention that I have never met Devin and I am basing this on a single article of his. Here is the link to the article and here is the portion of his analysis that I 100% agree with and endorse.

Google, Charge of the Light Brigade – Devin Coldewey at Techcrunch

It seems to me that they only needed one part of it: the +1 button.

Google’s ubiquity would let that button exist almost everywhere a user goes. No plug-in needed, no sign-up or tracking by the site. The URL or the resource itself (video, music, image) is already known to Google — you probably found it through Google anyway. All that’s missing is a button or key or extension that +1s it. The rest follows naturally. (Obviously this is part of what the extant +1 button does, but we are building it again from scratch.)

What happens when you +1 something in this simple system? Well, on Google’s side, it gets added to a pile of data: timestamped and correlated to your other activity and the activity around that site and similar sites, it would be a valuable unit of deliberate user input. And of course it makes one big number go up by one, whether the site or resource wants to show it or not — just like its PageRank stat or hit counter. A number we can all agree to use because it’s not for some community, some network, some service. It’s just for the Internet. Google already tracks visitors and sites and traffic, now they’ve just added one more thing to the pile. It’s a neutral party and it’s already present wherever you go.

And what about on the user side? Well, it could easily be tied to other actions, since once you +1 the thing, Google doesn’t really care what happens next. You could forget you ever did it. Or you could tie it to actions like posting or liking it on Facebook, or sending it to your Tumblr, or tweeting it. Whatever you want. It’s just a trigger you pull on a website — what happens after you pull the trigger doesn’t matter to Google, all they care about is that the trigger was pulled in the first place.

Oh, and don’t forget that everything you’ve +1’d will be saved to your Google profile – you can go and check it any time you want, by date, by site, whatever. Why, it could even have a little snippet or image for each one, or you could add a tag or caption; you could even do that right when you +1 it. And maybe if you +1 a video or piece of music, it’ll have that embedded for you just for your convenience. Like the other Google services, you’ll have a few templates and layouts you can use to make this little pile of data your own, like Gmail. Naturally it’ll be searchable. And if you just want to upload something, that’s cool too, it goes into cloud storage and is part of your collection like everything else.

Now, this information is of course private by default, and although you contribute to total metrics, your individual +1s are anonymous outside of your account. But a few people will want to make them public. And why shouldn’t they? People like to share things, and this +1 thing is straightforward, user-friendly, and versatile. So they make it public. Now people can see what they’ve +1’d.

Once a few are public, why, of course people will want to see what other people are doing. And you don’t want to have to go to their profile all the time. So Google will let you add them as a connection, probably with rules like they can’t see things with certain tags, or what have you. How do you add them? You go to their profile and +1 it, of course. Now when they +1 things, it’ll show up in your stream, and they can tweet or post it on Facebook later if they want. And did you know, Google reminds you, that you can click on their little icon any time and instantly connect via chat, audio, or video, no plugin necessary? You can even drag a friend’s icon in to invite them. But hey, it’s not a “social network” — these are just things you can do using Google services. You can do all of them or none of them.

All this happens outside of Facebook and completely parallel. It takes place naturally, people can use it as much or as little as they like, and it’s only a destination if you make it one. It doesn’t replace Facebook, it augments it (and other services) with a more generalized mechanism for saving and recommending things on the web.

So there it is.   Concisely explained how Google could take over social in massive and low key  jujitsu move.   Will they do it?  No.   But it could be done, and only by them since they are the only people that have the reach.

I will expand and say that you deal with the trusted user versus the untrusted user in a very simple way.   You could indicate which percentage of likes or Plusses came from logged-in users vs not logged in.    So the button would have +1000 likes, but you could click on it and see 800 “drive-by” Plusse (from non google plus users), and 200 logged-in share Plusses.    Google gets all the data they need and more, the users can engage  in a low commitment and a higher commitment way depending on what they want, and the business that has the like gets the social proof that they want.

A huge thank you to Devin Coldewey for his excellent analysis.   I had been mulling it over, and I am very happy to have had the concept put so succinctly.   I shall no longer have to try to solve Google’s Facebook problems all by myself.