Google made a lot of mistakes while launching its previous social networks- Google Wave and Google Buzz. Google Wave was not easy to use and Google Buzz… well, suffice to say that it’s not really buzzing.

Google tried to quickly grow Google Buzz by automatically enrolling everyone who has gmail account into this program. It backfired. People don’t want to be included in any group without giving prior consent. Just look at Facebook Groups. It’s one of the least popular features on Facebook so far.

As a result, there were a lot of negative reactions throughout blogosphere and social space about privacy invasion, the freedom of choice, etc. And though Google tried to rectify the situation, damage was already done. Some mistakes you could recover from, others are fatal. It looks like for Google Buzz quick non-volunteer enrollment was the latter.

It’s safe to say that Google learned its lessons. Its newest social network, Google+ is on a roll. There are many reasons why it’s growing so fast.
But in my opinion the most important are:

  • Exclusivity
  • Influence on SERPs rankings
  • Google Circles

Let’s take a closer look at each factor that helped to skyrocket Google+ growth.

Google+ Exclusivity
Learning from Google Buzz mistake, when launching Google + Google decided to go an opposite direction –instead of inviting everyone, give this newest social network a sense of exclusivity, make sure people want to join.

You can become the member of Google+ only through private invitation. In other words, one of your friends should already be a part of this network, and should send you an invitation, otherwise you can’t get in. (Yes, sure, you can go to Google+ and ask for the invitation directly, but I am not sure how long will it take to actually receive this invitation. My guess is you would have to wait at least several months).

I applaud to whoever came up with this brilliant social media strategy, my hat is off to bright Google minds.
People were fighting to get an invitation, Google+ was featured everywhere, in every even slightly important blog or social network.

Not surprisingly, Google + grew to 20 million members in a record time.

Google+ Influences Google SERPs results
Though Google introduced its equivalent of Facebook “like” button (which is called “+1” button) a while ago it was not really that popular. Then Google made it abundantly clear that the number of “+1” you get for your posts actually affects your Google rankings. Google provided a channel to harvest those “+1” from your social buddies. Do you want to guess what is this channel called? Good guess. Yes, it’s a Google+.

The more posts (your own and from people you respect) you share and “+1”, the better would be your rankings on Google SERPs. There is only one little problem (or actually, it is a big one).

You have to manually go to Google+ in order to share your posts or the posts of your friends. There is no way to post from some other social network and get it automatically distributed to Google+ (or at least I haven’t found one). I don’t see any option to embed custom RSS feeds in the Google + either, hence no luck with distributing content directly from your blogs through RSS.

In comparison, I can post to blogs and get the content automatically distributed to Twitter, Facebook and hundreds of other social networks in a matter of seconds but Google+ demands a lot of extra time. And if you jump to Google+, you probably won’t have as much time to stay on Facebook either.

I seriously doubt that inability to embed custom RSS feeds in G+ sream is just Google’s oversight. More likely it’s a crucial part of Google strategy to get most tech-savvy social networkers from Facebook into G+. Which brings us to the last significant element of initial success for Google+:

Google Circles
Google recognized that Facebook’s friends structure is very rigid. Yes, you can add them to lists but this doesn’t give you the ability to effectively sort your social friends. In Google Circles, you can easily sort people based on any criteria – you can put friends in one circle, family members in another one, and your social friends in a third one. You can then be as granular as you want sorting those friends by their interests. And you can add them to more than 1 circle. For example, your social friend could also be your client – then place him in both circles.

And when sharing a post or image, you now can share it not with a whole group of your social friends, but with ones that you know for sure are interested in this topic. So you can send message to a very refined group who will be glad to receive it. Of course the ability to provide video conferences between the members of the circle doesn’t hurt either.
So do you choose Google+ and the ability to influence Google rankings through increased “+1” or Facebook, its 700 million members and the ability of mass-distribution through other social networks?

The decision is yours but obviously it will depend on your audience and your goals.
Opening image from pvantees on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Yes, I know that Twitter and Facebook are 2 different legal entities. But for the purposes of SEO and social marketing they are like twins, they complete each other.  And ideally they should only be used in combination. You initiate your acquaintance through Twitter, then send your friends to Facebook to nurture this new relationship, share photos, comments, etc.

Both social networks play ever growing role as a sources for social proof and authority. It’s not just a coincidence that Google SERP algorithm now gives even higher weights to the links coming from such sites.

In fact, both Google and Bing (finally worthy search engine from Microsoft!) both now have a non-exclusive agreement with Twitter and Facebook for using their live-time updates in the SERPs.

It does make a lot of sense. People on Twitter and Facebook share the most recent information with each other, something that is as close to “fresh meat” as you can get.
And in the light of these news Twitter RTs now play a very special role. In order to determine tweet’s position in the SERPs, both search engines now take in consideration (for their SERP algorithms) such parameters as number of Rts for the particular tweet and the number of followers of the person who posted the message or RTed.

The more followers the account has, the bigger is weight assigned to tweet, the more RTs the higher is importance.

For those who don’t know what RTs are, they are re-tweets, special commands used on Twitter to share with your followers’ posts published by your friends.

In other words, when somebody thinks that your tweets are worthy reading, and follows you, when you post a tweet in your account, your follower sees it instantly within her/his Twitter account.

So if you tweet something that is re-tweeted by other tweeple, all their followers will see your update. This means your message will be repeated again and again.

Facebook has similar option, but instead of re-sending the message to your followers, you can vote for the message(“like” it), which is essentially the same. All your followers see the message that you voted up. The more “likes” for the message, the bigger the weight assigned to it. Simple.

While RT parameter makes sense, the number of followers is debatable as a valid estimator of tweet’s importance.

Let’s take a closer look. Since both search engines pay a lot of attention to real time posts and events, the more Rts the tweet has, the higher is frequency of its appearance in live time search within the twitter for particular keywords, and hence the more weight will be assigned to this tweet for this keyword. That’s where presumably the “Rt  frequency” or “number of RTs” as a new parameter for SERP’s relevancy derived from.

But if tweeter just started recently, s/he won’t have many followers. However this use may be a real pro in particular industry s/he tweets about, and her/his opinion might be well worth listening too. Plus user can provide a lot of valuable resources and information on the topic. Yet s/he won’t get big weight simply because the account is young.

Sure, the more mature is the account and more followers it has, the more authority it carries (potentially). Yet this leaves an operating space for spammers, and the logic is flawed.

Hopefully search engines will find more suitable parameter for this purpose soon.

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