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Widening the Social Web: Google +1 and Facebook ‘Like’

3 Jun, 11 | by BMJ

Google started rolling out the ‘+1’ recommend button across its own portfolio and third-party web sites just a day after Twitter unveiled its new ‘follow’ button. Both releases are being viewed as direct competitors to Facebook’s popular ‘like’ button.

Central to an effort by companies to stake out their claim in the social-networking domain and encourage ordinary ‘surfers’ to be more engaged with their products, the tools also facilitate the collection of detailed user behaviour data and have obvious benefits for online advertising. The suite of Web 2.0 buttons featured on most websites has grown steadily over the past few years (you may well have noticed) and sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit are long-term residents. But the success of Facebook’s ‘like’ button has spurred others to get in on the game. Afterall, it is said to appear on more than a third of the 1,000 most popular websites and apparently the average media site integrated with Facebook has seen a 300% increase in referral traffic.

A report by Facebook (read into that what you will) claims that people who sign in with Facebook at The Huffington Post view 22% more pages and spend 8 minutes longer than average. In addition, Washington Post and The Huffington Post are said to have more than doubled their referral traffic from Facebook since adding social plugins. Ringing endorsements indeed.

Why is Google doing this?
Aside from the obvious fact that it represents another way to compete with Facebook for internet supremacy, Google’s official line is that it will make search results “more germane”. Jim Prosser, Google’s Manager of Global Communications & Public Affairs, explained that “people consult their friends and other contacts on decisions. It’s a very easy and lightweight way to make search results more relevant.”  Sites that you ‘+1’ will appear more prominently in your friends’ search results, provided that your pals have +1 enabled and are signed in to their Google account.

“With a single click you can recommend that raincoat, news article or favorite sci-fi movie to friends, contacts and the rest of the world,” Google said on its blog. “The next time your connections search, they could see your +1’s directly in their search results, helping them find your recommendations when they’re most useful.”

What actually happens when you +1 something?
Google explains that when you +1 something, the +1 button will turn blue and the +1 will be added to the +1’s tab new window of your profile. Here you can manage all your +1’s and decide whether you want to publicly display the +1’s tab. Regardless of whether you choose to publicly share your +1’s tab, your +1’s will still be visible to others viewing the content that you +1’d. For instance, your +1 could appear as part of an anonymous aggregated count of the people who have also +1’d the same thing. Your name could also appear next to the +1 to help your friends and contacts identify which content may be most useful to them. Simple, right? For more information, check out the introductory video below.

Relevant to medical publishing?
So, does this technology have a place in the medical publishing world? Would you consider an article of greater value if your colleagues had ‘liked’ or ‘+1’d’ it? Or perhaps this functionality is better suited to social media offerings such as blogs and podcasts? Feel free to comment below and let us know your thoughts!

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