Many of you have no doubt already heard the buzz around Google+, the latest social offering from Google. June 28th marked the official launch of the new social network, which is currently only available in an invite-only beta (read the official Google blog post here).
What is Google+?
Google+ is a new social networking platform designed to compete with Facebook. It’s clear that Google has put a lot of thought into how to differentiate itself from Facebook, and has come up with several features designed to address common frustrations with the social networking giant. Here are some of the features we’re excited about:
With Circles, Google+ allows users to group their friends into as many different groups (or “Circles”) as they like – then choose which Circles see each update, photo, video or link they post (or just post to everyone, Facebook-style). You can easily browse from one Circle to another to catch up on updates from the members of just that group. Now, instead of having to decide “should my dad get to see all of my pictures or none of my pictures?” you can decide who you want to share with on an update-by-update basis.
A Spark is kind of like a mini Google search result or topic-based RSS feed, viewable right there in Google+. Add your interests and see news, blog posts, videos, and other items that update in a live feed. You can share items from your Sparks with your circles. No longer will you need to scour the internet for new cat videos: the cat videos will come to you!
Create a Hangout in Google+ and invite people in your Circles to stop by and video chat.
Initial reports on the photo uploading feature praise its ease of use. Google+ integrates with Google-owned Picasa, making it much easier to build and share photo albums than on Facebook. The interface also allows you to browse through recent photos your entire Circle has shared.
These features are all pretty exciting – but will Google+ die on the vine the way previous social experiments Buzz and Wave did? The key to Google+ success will be user adoption. For this reason, we’re a bit puzzled that Google’s starting out with such a locked-down private beta experience. People will only use a social network if their friends are on it. The whole “people only want to use it if their friends are already there” conundrum has been a tough nut to crack for many would-be social networking platforms.
Additionally, the sheer number of customizations available may prove overwhelming for many users. One of the reasons Twitter has been successful is that it’s so simple: just type and Send. Google+ seems like it could be a very cool, fun tool to use – but only for people who have an hour or two to sit down and play with it.
What This Means for SEO
With this latest foray into the world of social networking, Google is making a serious play to be the platform via which you experience the Internet. Google+ is another step toward a personalized, all-Google information stream direct to your eyeballs.
While it’s too soon to say for certain, my prediction is that Google+ shares will become a factor for rankings, and that items that members of your Circles share will be more likely to show up when you search on Google (this is something Google is already doing with Tweets and Facebook shares). That’s of course, if the platform takes off instead of crashing and burning.