More Hints at Google’s Social Strategy

By: Chris Crum - March 29, 2011

Even before all of this Google “social layer” talk started, we talked about how Google already had many of the components of a powerful social network – just spread out across different products. Basically, there just hasn’t been an effective way of bringing it all together for users.

How would you like to see Google bring it all together? Share your thoughts.

Putting The Pieces Together

It looks like Google is trying to correct that, as various hints have been revealed over the last few months – the navigation bar, the updated profile, and the Google accounts for YouTube users are a few that come quickly to mind.

It appears that Google is more adamantly promoting (or inserting, rather) the Google Profile in more of its services.

MG Siegler points to a note left on the Google Groups message board, saying, “Google Groups-specific profiles will no longer be supported. Instead, you will be able to use the new Google Groups to (optionally) link your new and improved Google profile with your groups. Starting July 1st 2011, you will not be able to make changes to your Groups profile. Your profile information will be available for export from your profile page until November 1st 2011. This change will not affect the nicknames you might have chosen for yourself to participate in groups. It will only affect the custom profile fields, such as your photo, location, and occupation.

One more example of things being more tied together.

Going Public

He also points to the following message in the Google Profiles Help Center, as previously pointed out by The Next Web:

The purpose of Google Profiles is to enable you to manage your online identity. Today, nearly all Google Profiles are public. We believe that using Google Profiles to help people find and connect with you online is how the product is best used. Private profiles don’t allow this, so we have decided to require all profiles to be public.

Improving Search?

That’s a very significant factor of all of this as well. We have to wonder if this won’t backfire in some Google Buzz-like privacy backlash, but it will certainly ensure that content there will be discoverable – by users, and perhaps more importantly to Google – by its search index.

You know how Google won’t do much in the way of connecting with your Facebook account? That hurts it in search (one area where Bing has an edge and Facebook itself could become a dangerous threat). Remember when Google CEO Eric Schmidt said they’d find other ways to get that data? This may have been at least part of what he was referring to. Of course that involves people using the profiles, but we’ll see how that goes.

Google’s Profile Message continues:

Keep in mind that your full name is the only required information that will be displayed on your profile; you’ll be able to edit or remove any other information that you don’t want to share.

If you currently have a private profile but you do not wish to make your profile public, you can delete your profile. Or, you can simply do nothing. All private profiles will be deleted after July 31, 2011.

The Components of a Good Social Network

So let’s look at some of the components that when brought together would give Google more of a social network-like experience:

1. Google Buzz – The Newsfeed
2. Google Profiles – The Wall
3. Picasa Web Albums – Photos
4. YouTube – Videos
5. Google Music (pending) – Music
6. Android/The Android Maket – The platform and means to obtain apps usage (including games)
7. Chrome/Chrome OS/Chrome Extensions Gallery/Chrome Web Store – Same as Above
8. Google Latitude – Location-based service/Check-Ins
9. Blogger – Blogs (More open version of Facebook Notes)
10. Gmail – Email, Chat, Video Chat
11. Google Calendar – Event organization
12. Search – important to any social network
13. Google Docs and Google Wave (tech still could appear in other services) – Group collaboration
14. Google Apps – Getting it used internally at businesses and schools
15. Aardvark – Q&A
16. Google Reader – Easily Follow news sources and share links
17. Knol – Wiki-like content to provide information pages about subjects (note: not wiki-exactly, but certainly a competitor to the information pages on Facebook)

The list goes on…

Google Products
All of this can be expanded upon and promoted in Google’s most powerful product – search. Google also continues to rapidly acquire new companies, which will no doubt fuel the strategy even more.

The bringing together of all of these assets in a thoughtful and useful way will be critical, which is probably why it’s taking so long. Google’s not rushing this, because it could have a huge impact on the company’s whole future going forward. Much of it is about staying on the cutting edge of web technology – the biggest area where Google has to compete with Facebook. Facebook is taking away a great deal of engineering talent that might have once gone to Google instead (or in many cases actually came from Google) – much how Google was doing to Microsoft a decade ago.

Google has been criticized for its social efforts a lot over the years. With Larry Page taking the helm again, and reportedly looking to get back to the more startup-like atmosphere that Google had in its early days, there is another fascinating element of which we just don’t know the pending impact.

Can Google compete with Facebook in social? Tell us what you think.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • vietchristian

    18. Google Friend Connect

    • Chris Crum

      Indeed. There are definitely more pieces of the puzzle. That’s a good one to note.

      • crispy_cadaques

        I’d say Friend Connect should be the glue that binds all the other services together. Its only function is social. it’s not like these other services which have tagged social on. As a webmaster it would be a big advantage to use Friend Connect to interface with all other google products, rather than go one by one.

  • Entrepreneur

    Really interesting article. Glad to hear that Google is taking it slow to incorporate everything in it’s social search. I do think though that Facebook and Google have two different roles, and are not really direct competition. I guess it depends on if will use search on Facebook or just use for networking/socialising. Again the same for Google. It will be interesting to see how Google rolls it out.

    • Chris Crum

      I think both companies have numerous goals, and many of them overlap. They might start overlapping more and more.

  • Windows Seattle

    Interesting article. I am amazed on all the different google products. I’m excited about google music personally. I can’t wait.

  • Montreal SEO

    I believe that Google has begun to realize that social media is here to stay and the search results are going to have to reflect thi new reality. I don’t believe that facebook is any threat to Google either.

  • Montreal SEO

    I don’t believe that Google has to worry about facebook as any real threat to their search engine monopoly.

  • Mike King

    Seems like Google is always doing new thing and trying to improve on them selves. At least they are still trying to improve them selves. Keep it fresh.

  • softwaresolutions

    It will be amazing if Google, really, is able to put them together. But I think they are looking for some components more than what have been already stated.

    Yes, Google should do something to stop the outflow of the engineering talent which will help them to improve the existing products and create new products.

    • Chris Crum

      They will certainly continue to add components through new product launches and acquisitions.

      • DamselSpeaks

        Product launch and acquisition would not suffice Big G’s need, it really needs “proper management”of these. Most of its engineers have complained that they are not being granted the freedom of being innovative which I think is the prime reason for its employee turnover.

        First Google should check the talent out flow, because its competitors are looking forward to grab its talent and then use them against it.There seems a communication gap between the top level management and end workers.

        Yes, last but not the least is that it should not make any mistakes that spoils its public image, here I am referring to the contest for which they asked for the last 4 numbers of very important code, though they later corrected. No need to play any kind of dirty tricks because a company like Goog cannot be expected to explain that a “screw up is a screw up” and even it is true no body is going to believe that.

        Google is capable enough to rule in the search world what it needs to make is to make search more relevant. Click streamline won’t help, people know doing that in many ways, Google will simply fool itself.

  • BTscene

    Google wants to be the internet i think :).What are they trying to do creating so much services?I think the half of them will be discontinued before 2015.

    • DamselSpeaks

      Not right, though Google is not the internet yet it surely going to rule someday. You see, you can see so many of their services, just an integration into a single product will help them to go a long way,far beyond 2015.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    When you lay out the features of Google like you have, it’s amazing to think that Google doesn’t already have a social networking platform of its own. The components are all there, they just need to be tied together in one place. Perhaps Google is feeling the heat from Facebook, so they are quickly trying to create a viable competitor.

    • Chris Crum

      Google really has a much more feature-rich offering than Facebook. It’s just a matter of executing the integration in a better way.

    • DamselSpeaks

      Exactly, I was wondering about it but you know by the time Google introduce these services, its competitors number increased at various platforms like it has MSFT for the google docs, I.E and firefox for chrome and Face Book for orkut and Yahoo and Bing for its search. And finally it came out as a surprise that FB took over in the number users.

      The most appropriate sentence that describe Google at this point is that the Google Empire extended but could not be properly managed. That is what Google needs now “proper management”.

      Upheavals in corporates is not a big deal and with so many products Google can surely come out of it.

  • Brian Elwin Pomeroy I type a ‘p’ and this address pops up “post” , and I email my thoughts to my webpage. If I use the right keywords which I find is or are the popular words of the day, some people read it. I have not said anything earth-shattering to date.

    • Brian Pomeroy

      Thanks for the edit.

  • Mike Clifford

    Google results all ready are not a accurate as Bing. Best for Google to concentate on their search results and leave the social services to Facebook. I feel that Facebook would have a better chance of providing search than Google has in going social.

    • Chris Crum

      I think both have a lot of potential for both, and that we’ll see more and more overlap as time goes on.

  • Franchise Guy

    “How would you like to see Google bring it all together?”

    Am I the only one that doesn’t want it “brought all together”? In fact, I break out in a sweat when I hear that! I contract out for multiple companies all with their own profiles. I’ve got my professional profiles, personal profiles, and a profile just for my family. I am constantly being nagged(in some cases forced) to link these accounts together… but I don’t want my worlds to collide!

    • Chris Crum

      Fair point. It’s most likely inevitable, although it is possible that it could drive some users away.

    • crispy_cadaques

      Franchise, surely you would gain from administering all your web “relations” via one account? What’s needed is a simplified way to have different profiles (professional, social etc) within that one account. I currently use Friend Connect, Facebook and Linked in for different types of interaction and it just isn’t very efficient.

      • Franchise Guy

        Don’t mind me Crispy I’m just venting (can you say “Buzz”). I also realize that social media is in its infancy and there’s a lot of growing and learning to do.

        One concept that I would like to see is the ability to create a ‘company’ profile. This profile could be managed by several people, and would not include all the usual personal data (age, sex, favorite books, etc…). Facebook ‘pages’ is an attempt at this type of profile but there’s still a long way to go.

  • Misae

    I had a good chat with Google’s Dev Advocate, Ade Oshineye and he made a really revealing comment about Google’s direction on this. Ade told me:

    “Google’s mission is to organise the world’s data. We don’t intend to become a social networking company”.

    This makes a lot of sense since early social networks like Facebook were based around a social graph connection between people and in many ways the type of information shared is never intended for public consumption.

    Second generation networks like Twitter or Quora are connecting people around and information graph – much like everyone commenting here has an interest in Google but probably doesn’t give a hoot about what I’m eating whilst typing this, the info graph is a connection based on a topic rather than a traditional social relationship, like friend, family, co-worker etc.

    Social networks based on the infograph are generally meant to be public. They through up really useful information for others who are interested in that topic. Google can do a great deal to help people connect around the information graph, and probably more so than it can do to connect people around social graph. Facebook wish they had a really good way of organising data around an info graph in order to break out of the corner they’re limited to be being a social graph focussed product.

    In this sense I think harping on about can Google compete with Facebook as a social network shows a shallow understanding. It’s like saying can we get rid of experts and teachers and just have friends? We relate to both in different ways and both Google and Facebook suit their respective area and not the other’s.

    Lastly if Google ever do put all that together, it’s going to be an 18 headed devil-monster beast of a piece of software that’ll freak most users. Most Facebook users don’t use half of the features in it; if anyone can understand all of Google’s tools when put together, I’ll bet you that that person has pointy ears and sits on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise for a living!

    • Chris Crum

      Much of the most relevant information to us is not public. It’s personal – like your info in Facebook – or Gmail – or Google Docs – YouTube/Picasa should you choose to have your settings that way. New companies are forming around integrating this stuff. Look at Greplin, or Wajam, for example.

      Google wants the most relevant search results, and it can’t always do that without non-public data.

      Google’s mission is to organize the world’s info, and it has to get that private info to the user if it wants to do that effectively. This is also why Bing is using Facebook data.

      • Misae

        I agree relevancy from a personal perspective has masses to do with the future of search. But the majority of my Facebook and Gmail isn’t what I’d want to see in search results. And if Bing is doing so much with Facebook data why did Matt Cutts say that Bing results were virtually identical to Google’s even for nonsensical phrases?

        • Chris Crum

          I can’t speak for Cutts without seeing his words in context in front of me, but I think there is a great deal of room for relevancy from private data from Facebook (or Gmail for that matter). If I want to find a good Italian restaurant for example, and I search for one, I’d like to see it in my results if one of my friends said something about a really good one six months ago on Facebook. Google is going after this market with Hotpot, but there’s a much greater chance my friend mentioned it in spontaneously on Facebook than signing up for Hotpot and leaving feedback there.

          • crispy_cadaques

            Let’s remember that the whole Google algorithm is based on recommendations. In Google’s case, a “recommendation” is a link from one page to another. But what if these “recommendations” were “scraped” from social media interactions instead? I’d give more kudos to a site a real user posts to their FB profile than a link some SEO has sorted out.

  • Rick Vidallon

    Google Cemetery. Hey… why not? Would be cool to tie in- tag grave markers on ‘names’. Sort of social media networking between the living and the departed. I would search it! Google Street View to Google Grave View. Sounds morbid, but would be an interesting application; and Google has the resources in place already.

  • Wholesale

    Nice information, many thanks to the author. But the reality seems to be that Google’s social strategy is much more subtle, and involves lots of little pushes rather than one big ..

  • Steve Dale

    It seems to me, that Google can expand youtube into a more social network with you2social. That’s just what I’ll call it for now. The phone market seems like the perfect way to introduce this feature. I’ve had a lot of success Facebook building a private group for my industry. Over 560 members. However I’ve had zero luck marketing my business opportunity on FB. These 2 worlds will connect someday.

  • vidaemsociedade

    Maybe the Google Puzzle can change according the customer: the one´s who write more, the ones that goes more social, or more reading type of customr. I would like to see Blogger be the center service of my Google Puzzle because I´m a writer. Maybe someone who go social likes Orkut be his main tool.

  • Gail McPherson

    I prefer Google Profile to Facebook any day. I can put out there what I want and don’t have to keep up with all the friending stuff;however people can contact me and vice versa if they want. I was just very disappointed when I saw my Google up when I just Googled Gail McPherson and then sometimes it’s up and sometimes not. I also liked when I could Google Gail McPherson Dallas Tx and it was there also.

  • pj lopez

    It is going to be a battlefield with Google against Facebook. In my opinion when it comes to Social, Facebook is going to win it every time. Facebook has a loyal following with people having it open for hours every day. With Google we go there to get our email, check the news or conduct a search. We use it because it is the best at pulling this information together. Social Media is a different entity. It relies on us, you and me engaging with our friends and contacts on a platform we have grown to trust (ok so they have some strange updates and default security settings) but we still go back and use it everyday.

    Have we got time for another ‘Facebook’? Why would we want one? We have it all already. Google are going to have to come up with some ground breaking features to entice FB users to a new network.

    I see interesting times ahead and look forward to sitting back and watching the battle play out.

  • christina phillips

    Why doesn’t Google lead the field by stopping trying to be all things to all people and to start effectively linking and getting good mutual growth going with other companies? This would be far better for users and companies in cyber space would have to stand on the merits of their software, for instance; I’m not keen on flickr but I love picassa, I’m not crazy about Gmail but I use Yahoo all the time. Fb can be a pain if you don’t want to be on it for ages so I use my mail to screen it. I have gathered so few followers on blogger but have had over 400 visitors, however on fb I have gained nearly 300 fans. I think blogger suits what I am doing better but it is hard to get people to link up with me. Do you see what I mean? Stop competing so much and start enhancing please :)) p.s. music = soundcloud, personal network and profile = fb, blogging = blogger, networking = twitter, art = artreview and blogger and twitter and fb, search = GOOGLE

    • P. Potos

      Agreed… I don’t think it’s good for 1 company to rule everything. Google and Facebook shouldn’t even be in competition…

  • SEO Bedford

    Google has all the tools to create a powerful social network and they just a mastermind to put it all together. They need external help to accomplish that, remember what happened to Orkut, back in the days it was considered a breakthrough with tons of positive predictions and now not even in countries like Brazil and India it is as popular as it use to be and lost serious ground to you know who. Facebook anyone?

  • Jeremy Cooke

    Man, if they brought it all together, Buzz from the beginning has been a pretty janky “social platform” not-so-easy-to-use seems to be the tactic they used here. So what does this +1 button mean? I really have no idea, If they could integrate gmail,buzz, talk and many others into one EASY TO USE platform i think that they could seriously compete with FB, Admit it FB is turning into another myspace, this dosent mean that people will stop using it. With google taking the slow and steady route i think they’ll keep the credibility and not have to worry about the teeny-bobbing that killed ms.

  • marmata

    all went very beautiful

  • Gail McPherson

    I much prefer Google Profile to Facebook since I can control what information I want people to see, and I do not have to bother about friending-but I can have my email accessible so people can contact me and vice versa. I just do not like the fact that sometimes I see my profile listed and sometimes it’s not-what’s that?

  • k.k.

    Hi thanks

    • Spokane SEO

      Personally I think that its good that Facebook and Google are competitive. Competition is always good for consumers.

  • Adam C

    I think Google should pull a lot of their projects together but the only issue is they abandon projects as quickly as they launch them.