Why Google's +1 Can't Compete With Facebook's Like
Google just launched it’s +1 button this morning. This new feature allows Google’s users to like sites and ads right on the search results page and which will soon also come to a site near you in the form of a Facebook-like “-1” button. Quite a few pundits are already proclaiming this as a Facebook competitor, but I have my doubts. For now, the benefits of clicking the +1 button simply aren’t there for users to bother clicking on them.
The +1 button will be a great new signal for Google to improve its search results and add information to its Social Search feature, but for it to really take off, Google will have to syndicate these results to places where people really want to send them. In its introductory video, Google says that it wants users to use this for sites they want to recommend, but don’t want to “want to send an email or post an update about.”
For Now, Your +1’s Disappear Into a Void – So Why Bother?
The real problem right now, tough, is that there are only so many buttons users can click on on any given site and unless they know where their recommendations go, chances are they won’t bother using this feature much.
With +1, your friends will see your “likes” on search results pages and on your Google Profile. I doubt that there is a lot of traffic to anybody’s Google Profile today, so why would I feel inclined to add more content to it? Instead, when I send a recommendation to Facebook or Twitter, I know exactly where it goes and who sees it.
Chances are, too, that my friends aren’t always looking for the same thing I do, so the chance of them actually seeing my +1 recommendations are pretty slim – making me even less inclined to use the button.
Until Google actually allows users to syndicate these +1’s to other sites and services like Facebook and Twitter, I doubt that this will take off in a major way.
That said, though, chances are that this is only a small step in Google’s overall social strategy. Maybe +1 could become part of a larger Facebook competitor in the long run, but given Google’s general failure to make any dent in this market, I doubt it (Buzz, Google’s last major foray into competing with Facebook doesn’t even get the courtesy of being allowed to aggregate +1’s, which is quite telling, I think).