With Google+ let out into the wild through an invite-only scheme, the social network is experiencing rapid growth. At the time of writing the latest estimates indicate the user base at around 20 million users which is an impressive feat in its short life. While Google+ still has some way before it can confidently compete with Facebook’s 750 million users, the rapid growth and close integration with Google search, makes it an important factor to consider for search marketers.
A key feature of Google+ is “circles” which lets you easily manage your different contacts into social circles such as “friends,” “work,” and “follow,” with a just-as-easy method to decide who gets to see what. The aim here is for Google not just to target a niche segment of social networking, but to allow one platform to better serve different purposes. The above circles could for example be considered replacements for Facebook (friends), Linkedin (work) and Twitter (follow). While I’m not saying that Google+ means the death of any of those services, I believe it has a good starting point to make an impact. Time will tell if it manages to keep momentum and reach critical mass, at the point were “everybody” is on Google+ and consequently those not already on the service will start to feel that “you have to be on Google+.”
Similarly to Facebook, users can share and recommend links using the “+1″ feature. And this is where it gets interesting from a search marketing perspective. While the +1 feature has been already available in search results for a little while, it is really with the social network that we expect it to take off. An ad or organic search result that has received a +1 will show up with the faces of your connections that recommended the item. The interesting point here is that while these recommendations are isolated to your Google+ connections, the potential reach is still staggering if Google succeeds in aggregating all your friends, business contacts and tweeps in one place.
As marketers, the most important thing we can do right now is to follow the development of the platform, and of course also implement the +1-button on websites if we haven’t already done so. Time will tell how exactly the whole system will pan out, but you don’t want to be behind the times on this one!