friend_connect_illustrationGoogle Friend Connect has added some new features this week, releasing an entire set of new options for end users and site publishers. The idea is to make it easier for people to connect on Friend Connect-supported sites, in a more personal way.

As Google Friend Connect adds the possibility for any website to become more social (in a Google sort of way), the ability to further connect based on these social interactions is a natural next step for Google. In doing so, users will have a more personalized experience when they visit a Friend Connect-supported site, as long they’re already signed into Google. Now they will also be able to more easily connect with other users based on similar interests. The heavy lifting for these connections is driven by the shared information between end users, Google and the site publisher. Google becomes the provider of data, with the site publisher acting as a virtual environment seguewaying individual connections.

That means if you visit a Friend Connect-supported fashion site, you could find yourself connected with another user that likes Free People tops. To further facilitate connections, Google will provide a way for you to directly communicate with each other. You’re already signed into Google. You already have a Gmail account. You already have Google Talk and gChat. Why not be friends, based on your shared love of adversely over-priced clothing lines?

Google has been seeking ways in which to become more social for years now, personalizing search data, creating social networks and launching a platform that everyone got on board with. Many of these initiatives have competed directly with Facebook. But the Friend Connect updates look to make it even easier for third parties to make their sites social, bringing the platform to them instead of the other way around.
Google is permeating more areas of our lives than Facebook at the moment. Especially once you factor in Google’s mobile efforts, which have the potential to collect a great deal of data on individual users. Applications on Google’s mobile platforms can tie in with GPS and Google’s own array of applications are staking their claim on the company’s mobile platforms as well.

Tying everything back to advertising, the information voluntarily given up by end users can be helpful for recommendations and the improvement of targeted ads and search engines. As ads are becoming more integrated into our email experience, Google would do well to incorporate more market research-driven data into these types of targeted ads.

Beyond the typical Google ads, however, the company is also looking at ways to make email more interactive for marketing partners. Testing is underway for a dynamic newsletter that companies can send to registered customers via Gmail. As Google Friend Connect also enables email newsletter options (based on the data collected on site visitors) with the feature updates, this may eventually tie in with Google’s tested efforts for more direct and interactive newsletters.

This is also a way for Google to make all of its other applications, including Gmail, even more social. The reverse approach to Facebook’s Platform means that site publishers have more opportunity to appeal to users that already have a Google account. While Facebook has its own Facebook Connect that competes more directly with Friend Connect, the concepts around each approach still differ in that Facebook still has a dedication to connecting existing friends instead of fully initiating new connections. Nevertheless, Facebook’s advantage over Google is the fact that many consumers may not be comfortable with a social overlay within their typical Google App activity.

There are several factors involved when calculating the effectiveness and potential of either approach. I think they will both serve their purposes in the erection of standardized platforms, attracting consumers based on their services provided.

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Kristen Nicole

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