Earlier today Google officially unveiled there often talked about secret social media project Google+. Rather than giving everyone yet a tour of the product I will devote this blog post to the impact that I think Google+ will have for the publishing world.
Circles is one of the core features of the service and one of the key ways in which it differentiates itself from Facebook. Rather than encouraging users to friend as many people as possible, Google+ encourages users to create groups (Circles). The idea being that users will create circles of people and share content appropriate to that circle (more on the possible implications in the challenges section).
Essentially, Google+ Sparks is the search functionality and recommendation engine within Google+. Google+ Sparks tailors search results based on a recommendation engine and predefined interests. The Sparks one of they few areas in which we might have direct control over. I have a feeling that publishers will try to game sparks the same way that SEO is gamed.
The values of a "+1":
The recently launched +1 button is the Google+ equivalent to Facebook's "like" button. Until now, when a user decided to +1 a CBSNews.com story it was showcased above standard search results in Google. With the advent of Google+, +1 data will also be used to determine placement in a users Google+ stream (their version of a Facebook newsfeed). Because of +1's integration across Google product line, it will be difficult to ascertain the value of a +1.
We all know that the average Facebook user has 130 friends and using that statistic we can calculate downstream traffic (albeit roughly). With Google+ there are more variables to take into account when evaluating a users influence. How many friends does that person have? How many mutual friendships? How many Circles does the user directly influence (and how many has that user created himself).
As far as I know there has been no mention of a Google+ API yet although it is safe to assume that there will be one.
There has been no mention of branded accounts yet.
Anyway, that is what I think of Google+ and the impact that it will have. Will it overtake Google+ (I doubt it). Will it impact Social & SEO? Absolutely.