Google+ Could Change Everything (but probably won’t)

The Google+ bandwagon is accepting new residents by the hour. Posts exist calling out how Facebook’s days are numbered, or how it’s LinkedIn that should really be afraid of Google+, etc. Everyone has an opinion, typically a strong one, and typically formulated without much actual time spent on Google+ or with the ear of decision makers at Google who could actually back up their theories.

It’s called Link Bait folks. The more outrageous the title of my blog is, the more likely it is to get clicked on, the more likely it is to be shared on Facebook or retweeted. We live in a sensationalist world, and the immediacy of the social web simply feeds into that. Sex sells, the death of SEO sells, the downfall of Facebook, all of this crap “sells papers” in the form of blog pageviews and social site backlinks. All of this hype is people trying to get a piece of the Google+ pie.

I hang out with a lot of Social Media folks, and of course we have our own social enthusiasts on staff, not excluding myself. Google+ has been a hot topic. It’s Google, so it’s search, but it’s a Social Network, so it’s social. This isn’t anything new however, as Google has been scraping Twitter and Facebook for a while now. What it is, most importantly, is the mainstream combination of Search Engine Optimization and Social Media.

Yay! I’m on Google+. Now what?

Google has a long way to go to “beat” Facebook. The biggest hurdle right now with Google+ is that folks have developed the habit of sharing their toilet routine and whether or not their boyfriend is neglecting them to swing dance with strangers via Facebook. Sure, people Tweet, but Twitter’s 140 character limit carved out a specific microblogging niche that has allowed Facebook and Twitter to co-exist without issue.

Google+ is also going to have to compete with the Billion Dollar industry that is Facebook gaming, companies like Zynga who develop Mafia Wars and f&$%ing Farmville which addict and distract a bored audience into spending countless hours on Facebook, keeping a consistently refreshing audience to then comment on your sharing of your toilet routine and relationship drama.

Google+ needs eyes, and right now it doesn’t have them. The whole “invite only” angle has been fantastic, and the addition of Video Chat and the very innovative circles setup has allowed Google+ to come out swinging, especially on the privacy front. That said, blogs are popping up talking about how Android phones that are used to take a photo automatically upload that photo to Google+, without your permission, without you asking it to.

How long before some underage girl uses her Samsung Epic to snap an inappropriate picture of herself to “sext” to her boyfriend before that winds up on Google+ and Fox News goes ballistic. I imagine Nancy Grace would even stop whining about the Casey Anthony verdict long enough to crucify Google with a “why won’t anyone think of the children” fury.

Back in January of 2010 I was published in Entrepreneur Magazine talking about Google Chrome and my fears about privacy. It’s ironic now that Google is trying to come out as the “privacy enabled” social network when they so desperately want your data to enhance their advertising products.

We’re approaching an age where the advertising depicted in the Steven Spielberg film Minority Report isn’t far from reality. No one is talking about what Google wants, why Google would enter the Social Network race against Facebook and their partnership with Bing. Google wants to track your behavior.

If Google knows what you do, and because you have a Google+ profile cookie running in the background of all your browsing behavior, they can better target their paid advertising to you. No longer catering ads by state, or city, or zip code, but down to “fans of Jersey Shore”, or people ages 18-34 who liked Firefly but didn’t care for Star Trek.

This is what Google wants, and this is the motivation behind Google+ at the end of the day. The more of your behavior Google can map out, the better they can predict what you’re into, and what you’d buy, or what you’d not buy, the more money they can make off of you as a single user exposed to their advertising.

Google Chrome, the operating system not the browser, is all about tracking your information, your behavior. Google Chrome, the browser, is all about Google knowing where you go, how long you stay there, etc. Google Analytics is all about gathering data. Do you think Google builds these tools because they love us? Of course not! Google Analytics might be free to use, but we’re giving Google our data in the transaction, and our data, our behavior, our essential online identity is something we haven’t really stopped long enough to value before. We’re not even stopping to worry about it now.

Facebook, King of the Social Networks that it is, has signed a deal with Bing so that Bing Maps and NOT Google Places are fueling the map listings on Facebook. Facebook has blocked Google from crawling your posts and likes and shared links, but Microsoft has the relationship with Facebook that allows Bing access to that data.

I’m excited about Google+. I don’t want to come across as a naysayer, or a conspiracy theorist, but ultimately Google doesn’t want to build a Social Network as a favor to you, they want to gather as many eyes as they can so they can generate a profit off of your boredom. This hinders me from becoming a bandwagon evangelizer of Google+.

Sorry Scarlet, I know you want to believe that SXSWi just springs out of the ground miraculously and unfunded, that Facebook is a public service as reliable as the United States Postal Service or that Google is out to provide you with any more than one more way for THEM to collect your data. All of these things are FOR PROFIT businesses.

Google is JUST a business at the end of the day. Sure they make $29 Billion a year in profits, like no other, but Google is just a business that sells internet advertising. The whole reason the search engine exists is so Google can get 5-15% of their users to click on those little paid advertisements that we’re so quick to ignore. How likely are you to ignore an advertisement if it references your favorite TV show? What if it knows you’re a dog person and hate cats? Welcome to the future of advertising, care of Google+.

Are you excited to jump on the Google+ bandwagon? Hurray! Just don’t forget why the thing exists in the first place, it isn’t to give you a place to socialize, it’s to create yet another data source that Google can leverage to better sell advertising to businesses that want your money.

Kinda makes me miss the “Hit the Monkey with a banana to win an iPod” days.