Think Google Plus is just another social-networkig play? Follow the money, and you may find there's a lot more at stake here.
Since the launch of Google Plus lots of speculation has surrounded the question of whether it's a Facebook killer, or a Twitter killer, or some other killer.
Yet in the week I've been exploring this new tool, it has become clear to me that the real win for Google isn't slaying some other social network. It's all about what Google gains from playing its favorite game -- content.
One of the most active uses of Google Plus so far (and I'm sure many, many more will evolve) is the sharing of content -- all forms of content. I've been around Twitter and Facebook since they began public offerings, and nothing compares to the level of content sharing I've experienced so far on Google Plus.
I'm guessing part of this has to do with the novelty, but a great deal has to do with our evolved social behavior and the framework of the tool. Google Plus makes it very easy to both share and consume text, video, images, audio, and links in full and annotated form.
I posted a graphic on Google Plus recently that was immediately shared over 1,000 times in a matter of hours. From a content producer's standpoint this is a great thing. It immediately signals that Google Plus may indeed become the place for people to share and republish content in an effort to gain more exposure.
The sharing tools on Google Plus will certainly get better, and I'm pretty sure Facebook and Twitter will react in kind, but here's the part I don't hear many people talking about.
Google Plus immediately makes Google Search and the Google Advertising Platform much better.
The goal of every search engine ever built is to present the best possible information in response to a search query. In finding and ranking the best content, the ultimate option has always been to rely upon a set of eyes and ears that are keenly interested in a given topic.
The problem with this approach, of course, is that it can't possibly scale. So Google spends all of its energy on crafting an algorithm that can think and act the way humans might think and act.
The best way to describe Google Plus right now is as what you get when millions of keenly-interested people share, promote, and create millions and millions of bits of what they think is the best topic-related content.
Overnight, Google has created an unpaid army of enthusiastic content-curation experts that will certainly play a growing role in discovering, sharing, and ultimately indexing the best content served up by Google searches.
Google now has a real, live, motivated eyes-and-ears machine pointing them to the best of the best -- and it all resides on the Google domain. In fact, a great deal of the content being created may only reside on the Google domain.
Certainly, folks will find ways to work this system to their benefit. (I can envision sharing or commenting circles where everyone involved agrees to hype each other's stuff.) But 1,000 shares and hundreds of comments on a single piece of content are hard to fake and should become a great marker for the algorithm.
Anyone who thinks this is simply a social-networking play for Google need only follow the money -- and for Google the money is in search and advertising. Google Plus gives them more on that front while delivering a tool that feeds the growth of the social and mobile behavior surrounding it. And that's a huge win for Google.
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.