If you’ve been online anytime in the last 24 hours, you may have heard that Google finally completed integrating their social layer with YouTube. Oh, correction, I meant you may have heard that GOOGLE+ COMPLETELY DESTROYED YOUTUBE AND TURNED EVERYTHING INTO A STINKING PILE OF CACA. (This is actually a rare occasion when my hyperbole doesn’t do the rantfest justice). Clearly, Tubers everywhere are up in arms. Google+ members, on the other hand, have had a mixed reaction.
While some see it as the natural progression of Google’s movement towards a unified sign-on/social web, others have decried the influx of YouTube’s normally less than savory commenting crowd. When I realized that my previous YouTube shares on Google+ had become comments under the videos themselves, I was also a little concerned. When I shared those videos, it was into an audience on Google+ that I was familiar with; now, my comments are the top comment on many popular videos, and open to much more scrutiny. That realization came with a second one, however: I’m now the top commenter on a popular video. Why is that important?
There’s been a new kind of celebrity introduced in the age of social media (or “Post-Social”, depending on who you ask): the social personality. Without being attached to an organization or having any form of supporting P.R., savvy Google+ users like Derek Ross and Daria Musk have built up an audience of millions, which they’ve successfully converted into a music career (Daria) or consultancy and writing offers (Derek). Social authority allows you to market from your personal brand instead of from a business perspective, reinforced by both the size and feedback of your audience.
No other social platform out there allows social authority to be grown as well as Google+ does. It supports rich multimedia creation far better than every other option out there, uses Authorship to tie your profile into search results and aggregate your content, and its casual “circling” model means that people interested in your content don’t have to jump through any “Accept as friend” type hoops. It is easier to find, follow, and engage with a Google+ user than on any other social media platform, period, and for most folks who give it an honest shake, that means your audience will grow faster than it has anywhere else. Using CircleCount, it’s easy to observe that the audience growth trends are a nearly universal phenomenon. Almost everyone gets some new followers every day.
How does this tie in to YouTube comments? The default display algorithm favors people with a following on Google+. Once all of this hubbub surrounding the comment integration dies down (which it will), you’ll find (as I did) that many of your previous YouTube shares are now comments on the YouTube videos themselves, and what’s more, that they’re the top comment. I’ve already started getting engagement with Google+ posts from people who previously didn’t use it, but are now engaging with my shares through the YouTube comments. More engagement and more exposure means more followers. This will fundamentally increase the daily organic follower growth for every single active Plusser out there (although some of those followers will initially be kicking and screaming).
In fact, the only thing that’s missing in this equation (and which I reckon Google will roll out soon enough) is an integrated “Follow” function right in the comments, similar to how it works on every other G+ comment powered platform. Currently linked names and profile pics still drop back to the channel page, but I’m betting money that the next iteration integrates a float over drop down with options, follow being one of them. With YouTube videos already integrated into Plus profiles, and Plus pages being setup for business or topical YouTube channels, I foresee all of YouTube becoming an integrated function of Plus, and sooner rather than later (if this isn’t already in their 12 month development roadmap, I’ll eat my proverbial hat).
For every active Plusser, not just the Derek’s and Daria’s, this merging of massive audiences means a couple of things:
1. A whole lot of people you know who weren’t on Plus before will be now, even if indirectly, which means you’ll start seeing engagement from those Facebook friends who refused to come over before.
2. If you’re an active sharer of YouTube videos, your overall engagement and audience growth is going to become noticeably more robust.
Now, there are definitely some bugs to work out along the way, and the massive influx of trolls from the YouTube comment cellar is certainly part of that. The Plus engineers have their work cut out for them if they’re going to provide comprehensive moderation tools to help people control their conversations; Plus fancies itself a kinder, gentler community, and the quality of conversation is generally more important on that platform than on others. That being said, I’ve already seen a general improvement in visible comments on videos, one of the core goals of this first level of integration.
Anyone who’s followed any of the official Google blogs has long known that all of Google’s cloud services are merging under a single sign-on (mostly done), and being wrapped in the encompassing social layer of the PlusOne.js application (allowing sharing, plussing, commenting, moderation, and aggregation). This is not Google’s answer to Facebook; this is Google’s vision of a cohesive integrated user experience across all levels of the web. Like it or not (and despite what YouTube and Reddit commenters alike would claim), not only will this happen, it already is. The Plus audience is vast and dynamic, and while the total numbers may currently be somewhat inflated by inactive or non-daily user accounts, the conversation stream is both active and rapid; if you still think Plus is a Ghost Town, you haven’t been paying attention.
For those who have embraced the platform and made it their own, this new integration should come as good news, as their personal brand is now prominently displayed in front of millions of daily users. This integration may be loud and messy, but if you’re building a personal following, it should be cause for celebration.