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The sleeping social giant awakes; Google launches a ‘like’ button

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 31st March 2011

Last night, Google announced a major new feature that will be coming to search results near you very soon.

It’s called ‘+1’ and acts in many ways like traditional Facebook ‘like’ or Twitter ‘tweet’ buttons. It will sit in Google searches alongside the website title link:

At the moment anyone can opt-in to the feature, but expect this to be rolled out very soon to all users.

Google calls the +1 a ‘public seal of approval’. If you +1 something (expect that term to be added to the dictionary soon) you essentially give it a thumbs up and will be associated with this ranking in your Google profile (which will contain a feed of all your recent +1s).

+1s will obviously show up in Google searches, but there will be buttons for websites and the ability to +1 adverts as well. In another clear move against Facebook, Google has been clear to push the fact that the +1 functionality will be very ‘open’ unlike Facebook’s relatively closed ‘like’ system. Of course, Google already integrates Twitter into searches so it’ll be interesting to see how this relationship develops.

Google will clearly be aiming to use this data to influence search rankings and also give users a more personalised search experience closely related to what their social circle has liked.

Social circles

This brings us neatly on to the rumours we covered earlier this month that Google is planning to roll out a new social network called Circles at its I/O developer conference in April.

It’s hardly a secret that Google has been trying to ‘crack’ social for some time and there is no doubt that Facebook still has the edge here with half the UK population having a profile on the site already.

But don’t underestimate the power of having a +1 button on every single search result. I’ve often thought of Google as a sleeping giant when it comes to social. With the majority of UK and US searches coming through Google, the potential to act as the social fabric of the web (something that Facebook is very keen on becoming) is clear and very real.

For marketers, there is clearly a massive opportunity here too, just like with ‘likes’ and ‘tweet this’. It remains to be seen how Google will allow brands to use 1+s from a promotional standpoint.

This move is a massive statement of intent. Will it work? Watch this space…

If you want to try it for yourself, pop over to google.com/experimental.