By Danny Whatmough, Wildfire PR

The answer to this question is, at the moment, not very much!

Google +1 is still very much in an early beta. You can turn it on by visiting the Google experimental page, but it only works on Google.com at the moment and won’t be rolled out further until later this year. The functionality is also still very much in its infancy.

Having said that, Google +1 has the potential to revolutionise the social web and that would have a massive impact on how PR (public relations) professionals handle online strategies and campaigns.

But let’s step back a bit. What exactly is Google +1 and why does it have so much potential?

Most of us will be familiar with the Facebook ‘like’ button. When used on Facebook itself or increasingly elsewhere on the web, this button allows the social network’s users to give a page, product or service a ‘thumbs up’. It also then shares this recommendation with their friends on Facebook.

Google +1 is very similar. The company itself describes +1 a ‘public seal of approval’. If you +1 something you will be associated with this ranking in your Google profile (which will contain a feed of all your recent +1s) and the company or page you have voted up will get a little counter next to its listing in Google search results.

In the future however, as well as showing up in Google searches, there will be buttons for websites and also the ability to +1 adverts. In another clear move against Facebook, Google has been quick to tell the world that +1 functionality will be very ‘open’ unlike Facebook’s relatively closed ‘like’ system.

While it won’t happen from day one, there can be no doubt that the company will be aiming to use this data to influence its search algorithm and rankings to give users a more personalised search experience, closely related to the recommendations of their social circle.

Going round in Circles?

Which all neatly brings us on to the rumours that Google is planning to roll out a new social network called Circles at its I/O developer conference in April.

It’s no secret the search giant has been keen to get in on the social media action for some time now. Google has tried repeatedly with projects like Google Wave and Google Buzz and has even been tipped with an approach to buy out microblogging service Twitter.

Of course, critics will counter that Facebook is on the social media front foot, with half the UK population having a profile on the site already.

But don’t underestimate the power of having a Google +1 button on every single search result.

For businesses, brands and PR agencies, the reputation management issue here is very clear indeed, but there will also be an impact on SEO to bear in mind, as well as the opportunity for brands to build more awareness in search results by encouraging their customer evangelists to +1 them.

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 the search engine, the potential for the company to act as the social fabric of the web (something that Facebook is also very keen on becoming) is clear and very real.

It remains to be seen how Google will allow brands to use 1+s from a promotional standpoint and whether social search will really usher in a new era for marketers keen to build online awareness for brands.

Visit: www.wildfirepr.co.uk- PR for technology companies. He blogs at the Wildfire Blog and DannyWhatmough.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @dannywhatmough

Watch the video below featuring Adam Parker, Chief Executive at Realwire, discussing how the online media world works and much more


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