What’s going on?
Today Google implemented major changes to its search engine, all of which deal with its social media network, Google+.
First, Google+ is now integrated into Google’s search engine. This means all of those posts by all of those 10s of millions of people are now searchable. (Don’t panic the people who can see your posts are still limited by your circles.)
Second, the results will include your own items stored on Google. For example, if I were to search “verizon dvr won’t work properly” (because it is driving me crazy) any pictures I might have that include those keywords stored in Google+ would also show up; same with any relevant Google docs.
Third, Google added a feature called personal results. This means that when I search the Web on Google, I now see relevant results from my Google+ circles. The two screen shots I have attached (click to increase size) show how the engine looks for results that include my circles on Google+ (shot 1) and gives me the option to look at only those results instead of all results (shot 2.) So information my friends have shared, links they recommend, all of these things are now part of my personalized search results on Google.
How big is this?
This change is huge. Some people are calling it fundamental. Social search is something marketers have wanted for ages. And I bet many users will be happy to have it as well.
Social media content (had) a short shelf life
For the most part, once someone posts something on Facebook it goes into the ether as it is pushed down the wall. This means the information on Facebook has a very short shelf life. For example, what good is it to me really if someone tells me that the vacuum she brought today is great, if I am not looking for a vacuum until 6 months from now; or that a movie is fabulous if I am not planning on seeing a movie until next weekend? If I want to check what my friends thought about something, I have to go to each individual wall and look manually at the page to see if anyone discussed what I want. Who will do this? No one, that’s who.
Like many people, I am more inclined to want to buy a vacuum if my friends think it is good, but how will I know that? I have to ask on my Facebook wall and people may or may not answer. And if I am searching for the next movie to see or book to read, I’d like to be able to find out what my friends think, through a quick search, but I cannot.
Problem solved – shelf life expanded to infinity
Google+’s integration with Google’s search engine increases the shelf life of social media. It lets me look for what my circles thought about a book, movie or a vacuum, months or years later. It lets me find the information I forgot to write down about the party I am supposed to attend. It helps me keep from having to email myself bits and pieces of useful information that people share, only to forget to file them and lose them later. Now I can just search and find whatever it is my friends and colleagues recommended at the time at which I need the information.
What do other social networks think? What will the Government think? What do I think?
Twitter has already made its feelings known, calling the change, “‘bad’ for consumers and web publishers.” Facebook can’t be happy about it. As more people see good search results from Google+, more people will be inclined to join it. I cannot imagine Facebook and Twitter will take this sitting down either. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lawsuit. Nor would I be surprised to see Facebook and Twitter sit down at the table with Google to find a way to get into social search before it is too late. Twitter would actually be getting back into social search, since for whatever reason it actually canceled a deal with Google last year.
I also think the changes mean antitrust drums, already pounding Google’s name, will become even louder.
As far as whether the change is good or bad, I disagree with Twitter. As I already mentioned, I find the short shelf life of social media to be annoying. I would like to see both Twitter and Facebook work out a deal with Google, or at least, develop better search engines for their sites.
What about law firm marketing?
The changes to Google’s search engine and integration to Google+ are wonderful for law firm marketing. The small or solo practitioner has a great opportunity to take advantage of increased access and search engine optimization simply by having a Google+ account as an individual and as a business. My number one recommendation used to be, get a blog. Now it will be, get a Google+ account and connect it with a blog.
If you as an individual don’t have a Google+ account you should make one. If your law firm doesn’t have a Google+ page already, make one. Use your Google+ account and page to get out there, talk about yourself and your life, but more importantly, talk about your expertise. What you are doing as a lawyer, what you are posting on your blog. Remember, people search by key words, so using the right words in your posts has become very crucial.
I think it is clear that I am pleased that Google has done what it has done. I see problems down the road as people learn to deal with privacy, and as Facebook, Twitter and the government react. But I am happy to see the information we share be made more useful to the people with whom we share it. On the other hand, privacy advocates are a lot less happy. Just remember, whatever you post becomes available and findable forever in Google’s search engine. In the past, whatever you posted on Facebook stayed there, but finding it took quite a bit of effort. So remember, make sure you share your posts to the appropriate circles and keep your private pictures and videos private.