Admittedly it's early days and Google's track record of integrating social elements into their ad-based ecosystem isn't exactly stellar, but Google +1 looks and feels like the search giant might be getting closer to creating a useful social tool that simultaneously ads value to the company's advertising vehicles.
+1 is Google shorthand for check this out! Recommending something is as simple as clicking +1 on a webpage or ad that you think is relevant and interesting and +1’s will start appearing in Google’s search results.
Where +1 gets social is that the recommendations you see come from your personal network through your chat and contact connections (reinforcing the relevance of these other Google products), connections which you can manage through the Social Circle and Content in the Google Account dashboard. When you +1 a link you push that recommendation out to your social network.
So why does it matter? In short, +1 matters because it introduces the concept of socially endorsed content curation to Google's search algorithm. This is huge.
Wikipedia rocks. Content farms suck.
I don't know about you but I've increasingly found search to be a frustrating experience. Having to sift through hundreds of links to get relevant results for my query is a time waster. Even trusty 'old' Wikipedia has started to slip lower in search results as content farms supplant the community edited collaboratively managed information source that I have come to rely on.
This is bad news since content farms are ad honeypots masquerading as information sources. They skew search results with carefully calculated search-friendly articles designed to attract reader page-views and are not necessarily the most factually relevant sources of information online.
Google knows content farms are a problem. Ironically, content farms have become a problem because of the success of the search company's reliance on a technological approach to determine the rank of one page over another. The lack of human influence in the filtering of search results has created an opportunity for content farms to game Google's search results.
The Social Network (not the movie but the real deal)
Facebook has taken an entirely different approach to advertising and derives massive revenue by connecting advertisers and its users with contextually relevant ads based on the personal information and content produced by those users. Ads are displayed to members of a friend's personal network and are imbued with an implied endorsement of the ad content.
The Facebook 'Like' button is the most brilliantly evil marketing creation of our lifetime. The simplicity and addictiveness of clicking 'Like' must connect with a base element in our brains. Whatever the motivation, the ease of the action opens up a world of marketing possibilities.
Suddenly, and without having to ask, marketers are able to target their ads with pinpoint accuracy to an audience that is more likely to be receptive to the message because the Facebook user has told advertisers exactly what they like. Advertisers have access to unfiltered, qualitative consumer preferences without the hassle (or expense) of focus groups and their sometimes unreliable results. When you 'Like' the Vancouver Canucks, ads that target Canucks fans start showing up in your newsfeed or in your friend's newsfeed because of your 'Like' of the Canucks.
Social endorsement takes the concept of celebrity spokesperson and gives it a personal spin, creating an infinitely more reliable means of serving ads to a target audience. Facebook.com has been the number one online destination since it surpassed Google.com last year, reaching and engaging with its more than 500 million members. This has not gone unnoticed by Google.
Google has been trying to get social for some time now and +1 represents the first development that seems to have social cred. I can see myself hitting a +1 link in search results if one of my peers has indicated it's a quality link. Same goes for why I would flag a link with +1. I believe my peers would appreciate that I've flagged a site link as relevant, perhaps saving the hassle of sorting through reams of useless site links to find what they are hoping to find.
+1 represents an opportunity for Google to stitch together many disparate sources of information, building a socially endorsed network out of chaos, and ultimately creating qualitative audience profiles that will enable the search company to compete with the 'Like' button. I look forward to seeing how +1 evolves.
I've included a short promo video below if you're interested to see Google's take on +1.