I was perusing a thread at WebmasterWorld about how people are trying to get more traffic from Google's +1 button, and one person's comments kind of drove home a point I've been thinking about lately.
Regarding the +1 button, member Shatner said:
Here's a personal anecdote to illustrate the uphill battle here.
Tonight I was talking to a friend of mine, a friend who I know visits my site religiously, 5 - 10 times a day.
He IM'd me and said, "Hey have you heard about this new +1 thing Google is doing? I heard about it on the radio. You should add that to your site."
To which I responded, "I've had the +1 button on my site for a month now!"
To which he responded, "Oh is that what that is? I saw it, but didn't know what it was for."
Since the guy apparently only recently heard about it on the radio, I have to wonder if he was confusing it with Google+ which has been the subject of much more press coverage since its announcement. To the average user of a site, who doesn't follow news about Google religiously, it's hardly unlikely that a lot of people will assume the +1 button is directly related to Google+.
Sure, it's related to some extent. There are +1 buttons on posts in Google+. One could hardly blame someone for assuming it's like the Facebook "like" button for Google+. This isn't the case though. If you hit a +1 article on an article on the web, it's not going to show up in the stream (the Google+ News feed if you will). It's going to show up in a separate tab on your Google Profile (and everyone's rushing to check that out right?). This could change, but that's how it works for now.
I've shown skepticism about just how much the average web user would be compelled to click "+1" on any given article, even before the launch of Google+. Google+ hasn't done much to change this other than the fact some might be misled into thinking it's going to share it to their Google+ accounts.
That's not to say that there won't be more integrations in the future. Googlers are taking to the new social network to connect with users for feedback on improving the service and finding new and useful ways to implement it.
Of course plenty still don't even know what Google+ itself is. When I asked my Facebook friends (many of which are just people I know in real life, and are not necessarily big followers of the tech and marketing industries) if anyone wanted or needed a Google+ invite, there might as well have been an animated gif of a tumbleweed blowing by. Then someone finally asked, "What's that?" Eventually one person asked for an invite (not the person that asked what it was, despite my offer of an explanation).
There are several possible reasons for the lack of response:
1. The status update didn't make it into everyone's news feeds (likely).
2. They are already on Google+ (Not so much. I haven't been able to find many of them on there.).
3. They don't want to bother with another social network (likely - see obstacle 1 from this article).
4. They don't even know what that is, and therefore don't have much reason to request an invitation.
Things will probably change in that regard. It's had strong buzz among early adopters, and Google will continue to push it and integrate it with various products. The branding will come. As the integrations come, it will start to make more sense to more people, I think.
In terms of the +1 button, I think as more people use Google+, we might see more people clicking it, but right now, it's missing that "check this out" feel of the like button, simply because nobody's "checking out" your +1's. That's my gut feeling, anyway.
To me, it feels like the +1 button is likely to only be clicked (for the most part) by search-savvy people, and those trying to game it (see aforementioned WebmasterWorld thread). That's hardly representative of people who use Google, which means that it maybe it shouldn't necessarily be indicative of quality results.
Feel free to disagree.