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The Era of the Person may be about to begin

A few thousand people saw our Google+ slideshow in one of its various incarnations, volume which blew anything we'd done in the past away. We also did a webinar last week for Gage clients and a blog post last week on the upshot of G+ for marketers - you can check that here.

To briefly recap the webinar, G+ is indeed going to work, for a few specific reasons. Brands who are dependent on SEO and PPC in Google (which owns 70% of the search market) will flock there because they will feel they have to, even though the network only has about 25 million users. The smart brands will try hard to get their fans on Twitter and Facebook to come over to G+ and engage there as well, offering them exclusive interactions, promotions, etc. They’ll do this mostly to protect and (maybe) improve their Google search results, but also because the connection between +1s, G+, and search outcomes will be made clear in the analytics package that comes with G+ Profiles for Business (a nice departure from Facebook). Meanwhile Google also bought Motorola. Now Google will have a much greater ability to dictate to android OS handset makers to build experiences on par or better than what they can (and will) build themselves. The Motorola acquisition also gives Google a huge leg up in the battle with Apple over control of the home. But I digress. 

In a year, G+ will probably have 100 million-plus members and we'll all be wondering again at the incredible speed of massive change in this crazy business. 

It's all well and good. I want to talk now about what will happen next: the total integration of search and social.

You know who Facebook has a strategic partnership with? B-I-N-G. Microsoft chose to ally itself with Facebook years ago after acquiring a small ($240 million, ~1.5%) piece of the startup. I think it's a pretty safe bet that Bing and Facebook will find themselves increasingly driven into each other's arms as Google+ takes off. Microsoft's purchase of Skype came only weeks before Facebook unveiled a video chat client using the technology. Bing has already fully integrated Facebook’s social graph to show which friends have liked your search results. Even Windows Phone 7’s “People” tab has deeper integration with Zuckerberg’s social network than any competing OS. Bing and Facebook will roll all this out with increasing urgency to compete with the sudden huge threat coming from Google. If Facebook is smart, they'll work a Bing deal in such a way that they can also integrate personal recommendations into Yahoo and Ask and putting Google in search/social in the same boat as Apple is in the mobile market - vertically integrated, but isolated too. 


So what will THAT mean for marketers? WOM recommendations are going to be more important for businesses than they already were, because they're going to matter in "e" at the point of attraction and conversion. It's going to be really hard to be a "quiet" company - especially a "quietly bad" company - anymore. It also means that more and more, every time a company has a good transaction with a customer, they are going to have to ask that customer to undertake a dizzying array of follow-on WOM activities, such as:
  • Like us on Facebook (needed to keep those Bing results up, you know)
  • Add us to your Circles on G+ (needed to keep Google search results healthy)
  • +1 this service on the webpage that describes it. Oh, and could you "Like" it, too?
  • Share it with your friends on countless other social networks, email, SMS, etc.

If they're particularly enlightened (and wired), they'll offer the customer a discount on the next transaction for each of these activities as well.

Until now, search results have been driven by two core variables: Relevance and Popularity. In the new era of the Person, you will have relevance, popularity, and personal recommendations. And I think that's a good thing.

Search is a bit of a mess these days - in SEO, there are all kinds of bizarre actions sometimes recommended by practitioners to improve perceived relevance and popularity. A lot of it is a lot of work, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the business itself. With PPC, results are mostly just a function of the highest bidder. Both of these fields are currently such a far cry from rewarding the company with the best product or service and who is most pleasant to work with, it makes you wonder. Personal recommendations, at least for now, are hard to fake, and are directly related to the quality of the product or service offered as experienced by someone you trust.

Strikes us as a probable improvement. What do you think?

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