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The Next Big Things(s) for 2012 and Beyond? The Social Web Climbs out of the Stovepipes

January 11, 2012

Thanks largely to Google, we believe the Social Web will begin to climb out of the Facebook/Twitter/Linked-In  stovepipes and become relevant across all your web experiences.  Until now, all the aforementioned social networks and their ubiquitous web-wide widgets have been oriented toward bringing you in.  We see this beginning to  change — albeit gradually.

The change will come about in several ways, some of which are already happening — First, more and more apps will add social features as we have recently discussed (here and here).  We see social features bringing people together within apps as well as sharing back out into the ‘stovepipes’ mentioned above.  The second change unfolding in 2012 is where Google comes in.  Google+, you see, is not just a Facebook wannabee.  It is just a small cog in a massive engine.   Here’s a recent post from Forbes that says it well.

Google+ doesn’t want to become Facebook.

Instead, Google is betting it can become the platform that powers the entire web itself.

The future Internet will not just be driven by social; all things “social” will be what users experience as the web. The release of Google+ is a tactical move in a larger war for this future web – one that Facebook is arguably currently winning. Google, however, is readying its battalions.

In fact, we have just been treated to an avalanche of Google-related news where the next shoe may have dropped regarding Google’s ‘socialize the web’ strategy and how they will monetize it.   Yesterday, Google announced that they will be tying what happens in Google+ and Picasa, (and- presumably everything that goes on across its vast, growing, and ever-impressive network of free apps (Docs, Calendar, Reader, News, Maps, Voice, and Currents, even enterprise social, to name a few) into Google search results.

Google Search has always been about finding the best results for you. Sometimes that means results from the public web, but sometimes it means your personal content or things shared with you by people you care about. These wonderful people and this rich personal content is currently missing from your search experience. Search is still limited to a universe of webpages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met. Today, we’re changing that by bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search.

Search is pretty amazing at finding that one needle in a haystack of billions of webpages, images, videos, news and much more. But clearly, that isn’t enough. You should also be able to find your own stuff on the web, the people you know and things they’ve shared with you, as well as the people you don’t know but might want to… all from one search box.

We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships. We began this transformation with Social Search, and today we’re taking another big step in this direction by introducing three new features:

  1. Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page;
  2. Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and,
  3. People and Pages, which help you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community.

Together, these features combine to create Search plus Your World. Search is simply better with your world in it, and we’re just getting started.

For us, the ‘WE ARE JUST GETTING STARTED’, concluding remark confirms Google’s intent to socialize the web and then monetize it.    Let’s take a look at how they will convert this to cash… which underscores the power of the motive.  These guys do a nice job of laying it out.

In other words, under the guise of launching a Facebook clone, Google has actually embarked on a major plan to improve search relevance AND shift its revenue mix to the much more profitable first-party ads. If Google can get away with this — and there’s no reason it shouldn’t, unless regulators decide that it’s got a monopoly in search and has to be subject to special laws — it’s an amazing coup.

The announcement  has already touched off a firestorm.   You can read the concerns from the peanut gallery here, here, and here, to name but three… all alleging acts of evil.      Of course, everybody has their interests to protect.  But viewing these events through the prism of a macro-lens, there are certainly profound changes afoot.  What’s more, consider this post (yesterday) from Google’s head of Ops touting how they have been endeavoring to execute  (and succeeding)  at start-up speed even though they are now a a behemoth corporation.

It’s been a few years since Google was a small company – but at the beginning of 2011, we saw that in order to support the growth of our business, Google would need to become even bigger, so we set out to have the biggest hiring year in company history. At the same time, we saw that in order to achieve our ambitious goals, we needed to take steps to ship products and make decisions faster. In short, we needed to grow and speed up at the same time, but to do these things concurrently, we needed to make a few changes to how Google operates. It’s still a work in progress, but we’ve already identified some crucial lessons as we work to make our large enterprise as nimble and responsive as that holy grail of business speed: The start-up.

“Google+ shipped over 100 new features in the 90 days after launch, while accelerating to over 40 million users. That’s a velocity we’re proud of.”

With Google working hard at accelerating the execution of their vision which seems to include both ‘app-ifying’ every corner of our world (desktop, mobile and the enterprise) and tying these apps together via a social glue they can monetize through search, we are betting that 2012 and beyond will see the emergence of the social web climbing out of the stovepipes.

If true, what does this trend mean for New Market Entrepreneurs?  In the short-term, while Google+ might not seem to command the numbers to justify building a page presence, it very well might become an important element of your social/content/inbound marketing mix if social search will be playing a role in Google search algorithms.   Over the longer term– if the social web indeed emerges from the stovepipes– it will surely mean marketing strategies/plans that take on a 3-dimensional-chess-like aura.  Facebook, et al aint going away.  But if  social broaden’s out, it will mean careful consideration on how and where to invest time, money and attention.

Back to the Forbes post for a concluding remark with which we agree.

From a short-term perspective, Google and Facebook seem to be waging a war to determine which will dominate the social scene. Does Google have more in its arsenal? Yes. Is Facebook adding weapons to respond? Yes. Where the difference lies is the audience. Users will shape the outcome of this struggle. Their preferences and behaviors will drive change, shaping the way each company approaches their domination strategies. For the time being, Facebook and Google+’s different audiences and approaches are making it possible for them to co-exist. Only time will tell when one will come out on top.


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