Something Social This Way Comes

Almost every Google product, property, and mechanism is social. Search is the conduit to social properties and content, such as YouTube videos and Picasa albums. With the launch of Google +1, we’re only at the start of a real foray into social from Google.

On Saturday evening I finally saw the Google UK TV ad for Chrome. The ad first aired May 29 during the breaks between the Champions League final, though I failed to see it then. Before Saturday, I’d seen the odd tweet and headline here and there, and got the sense that the ad was quite powerful, emotive, and generally well received. 

A quick summary of the ad:

We see the screen activity of someone creating a new Gmail account, and then emailing mementos of all the major milestones commonly recorded in the development of one’s children; from first birthday, tooth, singing on video – to first petulant strop. It’s the sort of content any parent might commonly document in a scrapbook.

If you have yet to see the ad, you can have a quick look now.

In my case, I had settled down for the evening to watch the final of “Britain’s Got Talent” with a friend. My mind was completely off work and in gossip-mode we had half an eye to the TV, and the other to the running program commentary on the laptop in the form of status updates from mutual Facebook friends.  

My reason for this domestic scene setting is to explain that being in weekend mode, I experienced the ad completely unguarded very much as any consumer would. In fact neither of us noticed the ad start, but suddenly found ourselves transfixed and playing “guess the advertiser.” Such is the emotive nature of the content and the way it is cleverly positioned as a specific developing narrative, we would have both put money on a digital camera or smartphone manufacturer. 


It wasn’t until I’d seen the first reference to a Google product outside of Gmail (which is used as the central method of sharing the images and videos from the sender to the recipient), that product being Picasa – that the penny finally dropped. As we see the last few words being typed by Edward Lewis, (Dad) in the “reveal” stage of the ad, I have to admit – it got me.

“I’ve been emailing you all your life. One day we’ll look back at these together.”

As someone who spends their life online, and happens to be the mother of a 3-year-old advanced iPhone jacker, I could have punched myself in the face that I hadn’t been doing this already. 

I was sold. Google is social. 

Google might not own a social network that acts like Facebook and allows me to share in realtime, banal observations of the quality of British Saturday night light-entertainment; but there it was, staring me in the face. Almost every product, property and mechanism that Google own is social. Search is the conduit to social properties and content, such as YouTube videos and Picasa albums. It then dawned on me why and when the average consumer is presented with motive and intrinsic reward for the act of +1.

As +1 finally rolled out across pages last week, there were mixed reviews with a natural focus on the publisher applications and benefits, such as positive CTR. On the other hand many are questioning the value to most end-users when there is no conversation-hub as such. 

How is the requirement of a Google Profile to be sold to end-users when there’s currently no real social home there? I’d argue that the lack of a social home won’t inhibit the adoption of +1 when so much personal social content exists and is shared via Google properties. I agree with Outspoken Media’s Lisa Barone: Google is building a social network, albeit by stealth.

I’d also argue that this isn’t the end of the chapter on +1 and the Google Profile. I think we’re only at the start of a real foray into social from Google. 

With the Google Profile we have the connection hub that facilitates identified connections. We can see who (of our connections) has +1d what and where all over the web. Using Places/Hotpot we can see which of our connections have checked in where in real life too! 

What seems to be missing is any form of centralized home for conversation about our activity and content. Looking at trends in device usage, +1 developments and the Google Profile incentive, considered against what is really important to Google from a development perspective (which I’d argue is Google’s serendipitous search) could the conversation home develop from Google Places? Maybe some other upcoming mobile social hub? 

Given we’re told the future of search is mobile, autonomous, and serendipitous, I wonder if this is where we’re really going to see Google find their social niche?

Either way, it looks like we’re in for something seriously social coming out of Mountain View at some point in the near future, if my prickling thumbs are anything to go by.

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