After a couple of false starts, the Google+ (pronounced Google Plus) Project has launched in limited release and is positioning to go head to head with Facebook as a social network destination. Although Google denies it is trying to replace social sites that are currently available (read Facebook), the similarities in form and function are unmistakable.
What are the implications for medical practices that are connecting with patients using social media? Is Google+ going to dilute your social media presence, and if so is it worth creating yet another social media profile for your brand?
The first thing to consider is that Google+ is in its very early stages. After the stunning failures of Google Buzz and Google Wave it isn’t surprising that Google is taking a more cautious approach to rolling out the Google+ Project. However, the limited field trial that is currently available is a fairly poor method for rolling out a social network so we can expect adoption to be slow. Even though the release is widely publicized, the current invite-by-invite sign up will make it hard to communicate with friends who may still be waiting for their invite.
Secondly, Google has already announced that it does not want businesses to create profiles on Google+. A Google+ experience for business is already in the works but is not likely to release until later in the year. Meanwhile, companies that jumped aboard Google+ and created profiles are seeing those profiles shut down which means that marketing opportunities for Google+ are on hold for the time being.
Even though Google+ is off to a slow start and opportunities for marketing are still limited, the advantages of early adoption will most likely outweigh the initial inconvenience. The reasoning for this comes from the ever increasing difficulty Google is having with algorithmically determining the significance of a website to end users. In the past, inbound links were a significant factor for determining a site’s authority. However, since links have become an unofficial currency on the web, the difficulty in determining which links are legitimate indicators of worth and which ones are manipulating the system has become a sore spot for the search giant.
The most likely candidate for replacing links as a major authority indicator is a system that evaluates social signals. Facebook Likes, Twitter retweets and the +1 button are all social signals that will have increasing significance for search rankings. Being part of the Google family, logic says that Google+ will be as significant an indicator as other social signals are, so adopting early is probably the best strategy.