The hype is building about Google Circles and while Orkut, Buzz and Wave have passed us by relatively un-noticed (at least in the UK) or fizzled out of existence, there is good reason to believe that the rumoured Google Circles has staying power.
Google already has its own social network foundations, Google Social Graph, which has been slowly growing and maturing behind the scenes over the last few years. Google Social Graph has been progressively indexing our social connections since its launch in 2009.
It’s amazing what it can find about you and who you’re connected to, just put your Twitter profile URL, or blog URL into the Social Graph API demo and it will unveil a large list of your connections and connected profiles.
How does Google know these people are connected to you? It’s all down to a little bit of code called XFN (XHTML Friends Network), which signifies a personal connection between two URLs.
Google Social Graph is just one of many social services the search giant has been introducing over the past few years which one could speculate building up to the launch of Google Circles.
Google Profiles have been around since 2009 and are a way for you to tell Google all the information that Facebook won’t tell Google about you.
Google profile results have been appearing at the bottom of US (mainly) name query search results for a few years now.
One of the most recent developments was Google’s announcement of a significant update to their Social Search offering.
Google are now mixing in social results throughout the entire results page. For example, if you search for a “Japan Earthquake”, you might see a news story that someone you follow on Twitter might have shared at the top of the results with an annotation showing that your Twitter friend shared it.
This is all very interesting but how do Google’s social features all fit together? It’s becoming much clearer that the next logical step is to bring all these features together into one, which could potentially be what Google Circles is all about.
As much as Facebook are trying to encourage their hundreds of millions of users to make their content more public, are Google one step ahead as they indexing people’s social connections and interactions across the entire web, not just on Facebook – and that is why Google Circles has the potential to be huge (not forgetting its 85% plus market share).
What does this mean for brands? Well, there are so many ways in which brands can start working with Google’s social search developments. For one, there is going to be an even greater need to be on the pulse of what is going on in your industry.
Google News has heavily integrated social search features and brands that are actively sharing and discussing industry news will start to see themselves appearing in the search results of their followers, increasing stickiness and brand awareness.
It remains to be see exactly what Google Circles will give us when (if) it launches, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Google have been building up to something big in social over the last few years, and this could just be it.