Is Google+ the Beginning of the End for Social Influence Services like Klout and Peer Index?
Google+ introduces some fundamental shifts in the way users engage with social media. The best part is that they are hidden under one of the smoothest and easiest to use UIs I have seen in a while. There's an established order to a mass chaos of messages (circles), topical analysis (spark) and the ability to collaborate through text and video (huddle). While these features are downright cool, they are not the heart of this post. Instead, I'd like to discuss the bigger picture - what these features really stack up to. One small, but massively inventive feature is the launch of verified authors Google+ profiles within Google SERPS ( image was originally posted by Sean Percival on Google+.)
The verified content authors mechanism effectively establishes an author as a node in the Google algorithm. A "node" is a fancy way of saying " a central point of intersection or a connecting point. So using the website model that currently exists, Google will now be able to establish the credibility of an author with links in and out, eyeballs on author content, stickiness and a variety of other previously web only metrics - regardless of where the author's content exists. From this point on, I can only assume that an author node will operate similarly to a website in the search algorithm - the stronger the author, the stronger their performance in rankings. Yet another way to make sure good content defeats poor content.? If an author's metrics evolve into an analytics offering as robust as Google analytics, that's where the- excuse my French - cool shit begins to happen.
Let's get crazy here and talk about how else this might disrupt the industry down the road (beyond reinventing the execution of search). Currently companies like Klout and Peer Index (PI) are all the rage as businesses look for a way to measure online influence. Brands have a good reason for doing this; it's hard to make decisions on where to invest promotional dollars in a market where you have little more than someone's word to rely on. The social media landscape is flooded with fuzzy metrics. It's a massive problem, and Klout and PI are cleaning up using the best of what's available. However, I reckon their time might be limited; raise curtain, fire canons, enter Google author nodes.
If I am speaking bluntly here, what Google has built with the new verified author system should literally scare the bejesus out of these companies. First, lets talk data. PI and Klout are limited to opt-in user data, for a finite amount of sources. Google isn't. Instead they will be able to see nearly every piece of content an author creates, pair it with it's journey through the internet, and potentially for the first time understand how it alters people's habits. Did your mind just explode? No? Good; let's carry on because I am not stopping there.
Google is a measurement powerhouse. They build complex yet nimble search algorithms on massive amounts of data. They are masters at data manipulation on the fly and much of this can be attributed to their ability to store data in neat and query friendly systems. If Google analytics can give you performance for a website (or a node on its system), is it too far fetched to make the conjecture that in time it can do the same for an author (another node)? Authors could be evaluated based on their message dispersion as well as their likelihood to convert. Investment decisions could now be made on how sticky an author's content is, likelihood for content dispersion and historical performance in a certain sector. Beyond being engaged for authority, an author could be selected for a variety of onsite or product needs. Furthermore, in this scenario it behooves authors to make their analytics accessible publicly, but only if it's through a 3rd party system. This where we get to the meat of the system, could Google be building an influence assessment tool and potentially a system to broker individual content? It would make sense for a variety of reasons.
By building an identity management system (lets call a spade a spade, Google+ is much more than a social network), Google has positioned itself to become a broker for bloggers and writers' time, very much the same way they sell search and display. Currently the content creator market suffers from weak architecture running off a quasi-chaos model. That means some excellent creators are undervalued, while some poor performers are overvalued. If Google could step in and serve as a 3rd party service to regulate this space, then authors could attach an earned credibility measure to their name. Thus, good authors would flourish, poor authors would hopefully die, and content would be optimized for the consumer. As a result, the market would gradually evolve to a more consistent pricing structure, and the investment by brands would be viewed as less risky. This also means the best authors would have a tangible reason to be paid more, building a case for authors to remain competitive and relevant. In short, social media grows up and everybody wins.