It’s no secret that Google wants some of that social data that Facebook is keeping away from them in their data centers, so they can utilize it for ad targeting in addition to creating engagement with consumers on G+. It has actually (in my opinion correctly) been argued that Google doesn’t really even care if users engage and spend time on G+ as long as they give Google their information and browse the web while logged into their Google identity.
Google is able to get consumers to create G+ accounts with no problem given the reach of its other products like search, Android, etc. And the company has been doing a great job at that. Where it has fallen short is enticing people to give it data beyond the basics, which Facebook has done at an astronomically fast rate by virtue of status updates and like actions.
Google has failed here because the consumer doesn’t spend time on the G+ property. I believe Google can solve this problem by using the developer community as a proxy in its battle with Facebook. If I was running Google, I would leverage my assets (search and Gmail) to drive developer behavior that would open the floodgates of social data into my platform.
User OpenGraph tags in search crawler
Facebook is pushing all developers to get on the bandwagon of OpenGraph where developers have to add semantic context to their pages and submit that info to Facebook as part of user engagement. Developers are happily doing this because, in return, Facebook is adding this information to users’ timelines, which results in more distribution for developers.
Google should take a page out of Facebook’s book and leverage this open set of information in its search crawler to give pages with Open Graph data some weight in search algorithm. I know we are all frustrated when Google changes search algorithms for corporate objectives, but there is a good case to be made for use of semantic data at scale to provide a better search experience.
It just happens to be Facebook’s recommended semantic data, but when you are behind in a game, you have to play with some of the rules set by the front runner.
Ask Developers to submit their OpenGraph objects/actions
The next step would be to reach out to developers and ask them to submit their open graph objects and actions just like they do with Facebook. The developer incentive would be the SEO juice they can get through giving Google more semantic information. Google would also benefit from having full context around the meta tags we talked about in step 1.
Give Developers ability to submit actions to G+
This is where it gets interesting. Give developers a very easy way to get opt-in from their users to publish their actions to their G+ accounts. This only requires mashing up some of the technology Google already has (OAuth, etc) with the addition of APIs for publishing actions on behalf of the user from properties outside of Google. They could even go ahead and copy how Facebook does it. There is no need to innovate here just for the sake of being different. Developers would not mind doing less work.
Expose actions in G+ stream
To bring it all together, expose these published actions on G+ feed and give them a decent weight. Make sure you give developers more love than Facebook. Believe me, the favor will pay off.
All of a sudden, all developers on Facebook platform have an incentive to push G+ integration in their products, because they get more distribution: through SEO juice and exposure on G+ feed. Just imagine all the vertical social networks such as Pinterest, Path, Foursquare, Zoosk, Foodspotting, etc. pushing your platform and driving social content into Google’s data centers.
Your move, Facebook.