The Google +1 has undergone a radical change. For some, it ignited outrage and cries of “Facebook-like” qualities. For others, it was a very exciting update that holds many possibilities.
If you are inclined to the outrage side of the debate, there are some things you may need to understand that may not have been totally obvious. In this post I want to break down exactly what this new +1 behavior means to you and hopefully lower your blood pressure to a sustainable level.
For all of you who already think the new +1 behavior is a good thing, this will just be an added fuel to your fire.
So What Changed?
“Many of the best photos, articles and videos we find online are the ones recommended by friends. So we’re making it easier to discover these recommendations in your Google+ stream.” -Shimrit Ben-Yair
In case you didn’t see this, Shimrit Ben-Yair of the Google+ team announced this new feature here. Basically, you will now begin seeing posts such as this in your Home stream:
It is a post that says [User] +1’d this post. I didn’t share it, I just +1’d it and Google+ is showing it in your Home stream.
Two Parts to This
1. Other people’s +1’s
When someone whom you have circled +1’s a post, Google is going to algorithmically determine whether or not the post is something you would be interested in as well. If it determines the +1’d post to be of interest to you, it will show in your home feed.
2. Your +1’s
Likewise, when you +1 a post, there is a chance it will show up in the Home feed of those who have circled you.
This is a way of adding more, relevant content to your Home stream and (more importantly) the Home steam of others, in an attempt to increase the reach of great content.
Reaction #1 – Isn’t that just like Facebook ‘Likes’?
No. Besides the fact that some of those ‘Likes’ showing up in your Facebook feed are fake (or old), the idea behind Google’s +1 is very different. What you see is based on what might interest you and you can always filter them out by using circles.
These are not advertisements, nor are they apps automatically posting fake activity. This is real activity, from real people, that Google+ thinks might be of interest to you.
Reaction #2 – This is going to clutter my home feed!
A few things to note that should settle this:
1. You’re not going to see every single +1 of every single person you have circled.
That would be more ridiculous that a sea lion singing Justin Bieber’s “Baby” while riding a unicycle on a tight-rope in the middle of Manhattan.
You will only see select +1’s that Google thinks you will find interesting or relevant.
2. You will only see these +1’d posts in your Home (or “All”) stream.
You will not see these show up in your individual circle streams. So if you’re filtering your stream using circles, you have nothing to worry about. But if you’re in your “All” stream frequently, you may want to start being more intentional about your circles and the filtering they offer.
3. You can control the volume.
In case you didn’t know, you can increase or decrease the “volume” of specific circles within your Home stream. For instance if you only wanted a few of the updates from those in your Colleagues circle, you can set that circle volume to “Fewer”. If you have a circle of Frienemies that you never want to see in your Home stream, just uncheck the “View in Home stream” box. If you have a circle of Social Rock Stars whose posts you never want to miss, you can check the “More” option and then click the little bell to turn on notifications.
Personally I don’t spend much time in the Home stream. I’ve been really specific with my circles and spend nearly all of my time in the circle specific streams. If I didn’t have my ear to the ground on Google+ updates, I probably wouldn’t have noticed this for weeks.
Why This Is A Huge Deal
This one feature now gives you the chance to exponentially increase your reach. If you have any ambition of growing your online following, this should be exciting news for you!
This means that if someone +1’s your post it now has the potential to be recommended (important word) in the stream of their followers. This means that if an influencer (someone with a large following) +1’s your post, you have instant exposure to the people in their audience who may be interesting in what you have to say.
Look, Robert Scoble himself even said he wants to “Plus your things!”
An influencer may not always have the time to reshare your posts, but it only takes a split second to give you a +1. That is powerful.
What if I don’t want people seeing what I +1?
You can turn them off at any time. As with everything on Google+ you decide your privacy level. If you don’t want anyone to see your +1’s, you can change the setting to “Only you”. If you only want certain circles to see your +1’s, you can set that in the “Customize” section. If you don’t have anything to hide about what you’re +1ing, you can set it to “Public”.
I’ve given a step by step instruction on how to do exactly this in this post on Google+.
It’s also important to note that privacy will still be maintained on +1’d posts as only those the post was originally shared with will be able to see the +1 activity. So if the original post you +1’d was shared privately, nobody who didn’t already have access to it can see your activity on it.
The Real Power: Recommendation
The reason this is going to work out for everyone is simple: Googles ability to recommend things that are of interest to you is it’s most powerful tool. If successful, you will find things that interest you, your experience will be enhanced, you will use the product more. This is a perfect win-win for everybody.
This is true of search, advertising, and everything else that is consumer oriented. The better they get at knowing how to serve you the things you want, the happier you will be and the more you will use their products.
If you embrace this change, I guarantee you will see higher engagement, more people adding you to their circles, and find more interesting content that will open the door to more valuable relationships than before.
Are you convinced yet that this is a good thing? If not, tell me why in the comments below!