“You say it’s your birthday
Well it’s my birthday too–yeah
You say it’s your birthday
We’re gonna have a good time
I’m glad it’s your birthday
Happy birthday to you.”
Google is rolling out birthdays at Google.com. Basically each day when you go to Google.com you will see a list of people who you follow on Google+ who are having a birthday that day. This is so much bigger than that though. Not only will you see a list of people when you go to Google.com, you will see a list of people whenever you do a basic search on Google in any way period. If you type a search query into the Chrome box, if you use Firefox and type a search query into the search box, however you use Google for search, when you search (and are logged into your Google account) every way you search you’ll be reminded of birthdays going forward.
Google could have put this information anywhere on the web but they specifically, and strategically, chose to put it in their most heavily trafficked product of all. This is not the first time that Google has used Google.com to promote Google+. Some of you will remember the big blue arrow several months back on Google.com promoting Google+ — but this is more significant than previous usage because it’s a new commitment to using search *every* *single* *day* going forward to promote G+.
Back in May I did an unscientific poll asking if people would like to see a birthday feature on G+ like Facebook and it came back that about 60% of folks did want a feature like this. I love saying happy birthday to people and have been using Facebook over the past year to wish many people happy birthday on Google+ — which feels super weird and I also miss a lot of birthdays when I’m not paying attention. Now I can get this information directly from Google.
Google could have chosen to put this information somewhere on Google+, but they carefully chose instead to put it on some of the absolutely most valuable web space in the entire universe. Pay attention. This is important. I believe the reason why Google chose to put this information on Google.com is because they wanted a way to suck more people into Google+ who have inactive accounts. Even more than a fun feature to let you say happy birthday to your friends, this new feature is an irresistible advertisement sucking you into being more social on Google+.
Everybody and their brother has a Google+ account at this point. Google has been pushing it hard in a unified way across the entire company and every day thousands of new people sign up for google accounts to use things like gmail and end up on Google+ even if they don’t specifically want to be. This is a big number. Some of these people check it out, see that their friends are still over at Facebook and don’t come back. Others, like me and a huge part of the photography community, stay and make a home there and recognize it for what it is, the best, most functional, most lubricated social network in history.
You have to try Google+ for a while to get into it. It takes some effort. Most people are lazy and unlike early adopters need to warm up to something new. So a lot of people have Google+ accounts but are not super active on them yet.
Everybody uses Google search. Everybody. And now anyone logged into Google (and this is a big number on any given day) is going to see a highly personal targeted advertisement for Google+ every time someone in their circles has a birthday.
Saying happy birthday to a friend is such a fun thing to do. We all want to do it. Just look at your friend’s Facebook page when it’s their birthday. It’s so full of great wishes. And when your friends wish you happy birthday, you have to say thank you back right? So this new feature will inject millions of new interactions between individuals into Google+ every single day. This is a hook bringing folks back into Google+. For many people they will say happy birthday and leave and not come back again. For some they will say happy birthday to four friends over the coming months and then these conversations will spark up and many, many of these people will be drawn into using Google+.
This may feel like a minor new feature, but it actually may be the most significant thing that Google has done yet to promote Google+. Using their most powerful resource to advertise for Google+ every single day going forward is a huge commitment. To those who question Google’s commitment to Google+ this should be a clear signal that they could not be more committed to Google+ going forward. Google is all in with this one.
There will probably be haters of this new feature even though everybody loves a good birthday. Google+ has had it’s naysayers from day one.
First there are those who are just lazy and don’t want to maintain another social network. Who cares if Google+ is better these people say, I’m already on Facebook.
Then there are those who see Google+ as a competitor to other places where they have built significant identities on the web. These are the folks who complain that Google is polluting search with all this Google+ nonsense. These were the same folks that complained the loudest about Search Plus Your World. For many of these people they’ve made significant commitments to their own blogs or other networks and Google+ is competition to this. They don’t like the fact that Google is pushing them to G+ if they care about search and SEO.
Finally there are the FUD people. These people still show up and will try to make arguments about how Google+ is a bad idea from some language plucked deep out to the TOS. Just watch, we’ll probably get a few comments from the tinfoil hat types about how Google is going to try and steal your photographs even on this very post (rolls eyes).
By the way, if you are one of the hyper privacy types be aware that sharing your birthday is not turned on by default. You get to decide exactly who you want to share it with. Maybe you don’t want to share it with anybody, maybe you just want to share it with people you are following. Maybe you want to share it with the world. Whatever you want to do the choice is yours.
The bottom line is that Google+ is here to stay. Not only is it here to stay, it is very likely going to be the dominant social network on the web going forward. Whether you are using Flickr or Twitter or Facebook ( I use all three by the way) it will be to your benefit to beef up your presence on Google+. Don’t underestimate Google’s power to continue promoting this network. The commitment could not be stronger and this feature should make that clear. The earlier you get on the more you’ll benefit from this amazing network.
About a month ago I watched a Google+ hangout done with Google Social Chief Vic Gundotra. If you missed this interview, check it out, it’s really informative. One of the things that really struck me in the interview was when Vic said that Google regularly thinks out 10 years in advance. 10 years in advance. Think about that. At the pace of new features that Google+ has been rolling out in the last year alone, it clear that this network will continue to evolve in some of the best ways possible going forward.
You can find me on Google+ at one of these slick new custom Google+ urls at http://google.com/+ThomasHawk