Google introduced the +1 button for all Web site developers and bloggers last week, expanding the “social” feature beyond just search. Google’s +1 button was initially introduced as a way for Google users to see recommended results in Google search, though only by a count; users could not see exactly who recommended specific search results. Now, blogs can add the +1 button to their sites, allowing Google users to recommend specific blog posts without having to trek back to search results to recommend a blog post. (Because who does that?)
The problem is that Google’s attempt to be social (after so many previous failures to be just that) is yet another failure — or so it seems. A look at the Google +1 button implementation on one of the most successful tech blogs, TechCrunch — which was one of the first blogs to adopt the button — shows a very low userate. While an article from the WWDC conference about Apple’s new messaging system, which will pose a very viable threat to traditional SMS, generated well over 2k Facebook Likes from the Facebook button on the blog by the end of the day, only 74 people had recommended the blog post using Google’s +1 button. I’m not very good at math, but that’s about 3% of people using Google’s sharing feature compared to Facebook. Other articles on TechCrunch have a similar rate of use. Notably, the use of Digg is almost as low as, if not lower, than the Google +1 button. And many say that Digg is dying a slow death.
Sure, it’s only been a week, and more people could become more keen to the use of Google +1. But the problem with Google +1 is that as long as it suffers empty room syndrome, people will continue to not use it, because they won’t see anyone else using it, whereas their Facebook friends and Twitter followers are rampantly sharing articles on other social networks. So why use Google? It doesn’t help that the Google +1 button is only a metric of how popular a blog post is on the Google network. The Google +1 does not know which of your friends have recommended a story, either on the blog post itself or in Google search. Without this layer of connectivity, this “social” feature from Google is pretty much just a meaningless metric for consumers — and for blog owners, who, as Aaron Peters points out, could be penalized by Google itself for using the script required to install the Google +1 button.
What do you think about the Google +1 button? Is it too soon to tell if it will be a game changer — or is it already a dud? Let us know what you think in the comments.