What do Google Buzz, Google Wave, and Google Lively have in common? These were all former attempts by Google to develop social networks where people could share status updates, links, photos and other information with their friends. All of these platforms failed to maintain an audience all are now officially discontinued.

Google has recently launched another social networking platform, Google+, to integrate what it calls a “social layer” with all of its other products and services like search, Google Apps, Gmail, YouTube and more. Google appears to have finally learned what’s important to social media users — useful applications and meaningful recommendations within trusted networks.

With that in mind, here’s why Google+ is Google’s best attempt at social yet.

Social Proof

Social Proof

“Social proof” is the concept that people’s decisions about what to like, endorse, and share are influenced by the people in their trusted networks. In other words, if 50 of your online friends have publicly stated that they like “Brand X,” there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll like “Brand X” too, or that you’ll take a look at the brand based on your friends’ endorsements.

Facebook did a great job of promoting the idea of social proof through its “Like” button. When your friend clicks a Like button anywhere it appears on the web, his or her endorsements show up on your Facebook timeline. Google has followed suit by introducing the “Google +1” button where you can “plus one” any content that contains the Google +1 button.

Clicking the +1 button typically increments a counter on the content. The higher the count on the button, the more people have endorsed the content on the page. Pages that you have “plussed” also show up on your activity timeline on the Google+ platform so that people in your Google Circles can see what content you like.

Content that you or members of your Circles have given a +1 shows up in Google searches now too. The idea is that you’re more likely to check out the content that your friends have plussed. This marks an interesting divergence from Google’s traditional search algorithm. Now, content is indexed and deemed to be more relevant if people in your Google+ network have deemed it to be more relevant. In other words, Google+ appears to be a very powerful marriage between social media and search.

Brand Pages

Brand Pages

Adequate support for businesses and brands has been missing in Google’s previous attempts at developing a viable social media platform. This time around, Google+ now allows businesses to create their own Google+ Pages. This new marketing medium and Google’s dominance in search provide a compelling motivation for brands to integrate Google+ in their marketing mix.

Google has introduced Google+ Badges that brands can place on their websites where people can to subscribe to a Google+ Page simply by clicking a button. Google+ “Direct Connect” also makes it easy for people to find your brand on Google+ when you add a “+” to your brand name in a Google Search. Some of these features are still being rolled out but its clear that Google is setting its sites on augmenting search with the social content that resides on brand pages on Google+.

Social Applications

Social Applications

Google is not only a behemoth when it comes to search, it also owns one of the most popular social media sites on the web — YouTube. Leveraging the immense popularity of online video, Google recently redesigned the YouTube platform to integrate more fully with Google+. With the addition of “YouTube Slider” on the Google+ homepage, members can easily search for YouTube videos and watch them within a pop-up window without ever leaving Google+.

Google+ Circles have been integrated with all of its Google chat services including Gmail, iGoogle, and the Google Talk client. This makes it easier to chat with people in your various Google networks, as long as you are already connected through Google Circles.

Google+ has expanded on the idea of chat rooms by introducing Hangouts — a video chat room where you and people in your Circles can connect through live streaming video. Google+ also displays Twitter-like Trending Topics that display when you perform a search in Google+. Google makes it easier for businesses to build communities around their brands with a new set of community guides highlighting case studies and tips on using the platform more effectively.

Google has no doubt learned from its past social media failures that a social media platform must be built on social relationships, not just esoteric algorithms. With the promotion and integration of all of its services and applications on Google+, it looks as if Google+ is poised to be Google’s best social media platform yet.

[Image credits: Elke Fleing, Steve Jurvetson, tuAAb, fairfaxcounty]

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