Illustration: Google+ and The “Actionable” Social Web

This is a followup to my previous post on Google+. Here's a very simple illustration that explains what I mean by the "actionable" social web:

The image below shows a post shared by Steven Levy on Google+. The post talks about a book he recently wrote called, "In The Plex."

BeforeThat's all good, except, that post could be so much better if it allowed Levy's followers to actually buy the book right there and then. This post could be enhanced as follows:

AfterDo you see the Amazon "Add to Cart" button below the post's description?

Now that's a much more meaningful post to people interested in the book. Now they have the option to buy it without leaving Google+.

Before Google+ came out, I was hoping that Facebook would do something like this. But here is why I think Google can easily succeed in making the "actionable" social web possible:

  1. Google understands data: unlike Facebook, Google's bread and butter is understanding data on the web for ranking and relevancy.
  2. Schema.org: Google is pushing for structured data through schema.org. With website getting more structured, the more accurate the understanding of their content becomes.
  3. Sparks: You can follow a particular interest on Google+ by creating a Spark.

The questions now becomes this: when will be see enhanced, "actionable" posts like the one below on Google+?

After2I hope the answer is: very soon!

Can Google+ Be The “Actionable,” Relevant Social Network? You Bet!

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about relevancy and the future of user experience on Facebook. I argued that relevancy in Facebook was broken and suggested a way to fix it.

Google+
Two days ago, Google released its newest social product, Google+. As I read through the Tech Crunch post explaing what the product was about, I couldn't help but smile. Google's Vic Gundotra was quoted saying:

We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward. We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public. Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software.

Thank you! That's precisely the arguement I made. Google is finally onto something big in the social space! Moving away from the "walled garden" approach that's at the core of Facebook, Google+ focuses more on shared, real-time interests than mapping real life relationships.

Google+ is inherintly relevant. You don't need a virtual handshake of "friending" another person to connect. With Google+, you can hang out with anyone, no strings attached.

So it's open, it's relevant, but is it actionable?

I worte in my previous post about the detailed, localized and actionable relevant experiences on Facebook. What I meant by actionable was giving the user the ability to transact on that piece of relevant content without leaving his/her profile page.

So, does Goolge+ offer that capability?

Google+, Circles, Hangouts and Sparks

Not yet, but it's definitely within the realm of possibility.

What's currently missing in Google+ is autodiscovery. Right now, you can follow a topic by creating a "spark." This allows you to get content from everyone following the same topic. However, if someone who's not following that topic shares a related piece of content on the topic, you won't see it.

Sparks depend on the explicit intention of the user (ala Facebook) instead of the context of the shared content itself. As it is today, Sparks are useless, but they can be great!

The good news here is Google can easily implement autodiscovery. If you read In The Plex, you know they can. So the question here is, how can autodiscovery make the experience actionable?

For starters, if Google is able (and it is) to recognize the category and context of every piece of content users share on Google+, then they are able to monetize that content by making it actionable.

For example, let's say I'm into photography. I go ahead and create a "photography" spark to follow all the related content people share on photography. A week later, some random person (who is not following the "photography topic) on Google shares the following post:

Dude, I love my Canon 5D Mark II. It's like the best. camera. ever!

Because Google now recognizes the category and context of content, it flags this content as, "photography, canon, 5d mark II, ….etc." And as a result of that, I would see that post under my "photography" spark … with a link to buy the Canon 5D Mark II from the Google Store or Amazon.com or whatever.

That added link, which is a call to action, is where the power of Google+ lies! By knowing what the content is about, you can enhance it by offering a call to action that makes sense to the user who is more likely to engage with it.

Now think of all the other verticals that this could apply to: travel, financial, automotive, gifts, …etc. Google can partner with subject matter experts in each vertical to provide to help it enhance the relevant experience by making it detailed, localized and actionable.

Thought?

Making the Web Faster as a Community

I recently wrote a blog post on the techniques we used at Edmunds to make our sites faster to the end consumer. The topic of web performance is big right now due to the fact that more and more business fully realize the real impact of performance on their brand and bottom line. It's heartwarming to see the level of interest and engagement we received so far.

I also wrote a guest blog post on the Google Code blog as part of the ongoing effort by Edmunds and Google to push for a faster web for all. I'm looking forward to further collaboration as we tackle the mobile web frontier and its interesting challenges and opportunities.