Google is the Goliath of the Internet — the information technology firm whose almost-prohibitive dominance of online life frequently leaves rivals gasping for breath.
When it comes to social media, however, the statistics tell a different story entirely. The company’s Google+ social network is seen by many Web savants as a poor man’s Facebook — a pale imitation of the real thing, with no big distinguishing features and a fraction of the user-base.
It’s a frustrating reality for a company so accustomed to online primacy, but it may be about to change.
On Wednesday came word that Google has begun leveraging its online dominance of other sectors to begin building Google+ into a more widely-used platform.
According to TalkingPointsMemo
, Google recently unveiled Google+ Local, converting all of its Google Place listings into Google+ Local profiles. The move requires any company that wants to control its listing on Google Maps to take part in Google’s social network.
Google Maps, currently the Web’s most widely-used map service, has become an important avenue through which local businesses can reach new customers.
The decision to link map listings with Google+ profiles is seen by some tech analysts as a way of imbuing the social network with some of Google Maps’ ubiquity.
Google, however, has pitched the move as a leg up for businesses and the customers they serve. In a post on the company’s “Google and Your Business” blog, a Google executive explained, “With one listing, your business can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and your customers can easily recommend your business to their friends, or tell the world about it with a review.”
Google, which recently acquired ratings-firm Zagat for a reported $125 million, has begun using Zagat’s rating system for all local businesses listed with Google+ Local. The new system rates each Google+ Local listing based on a number of parameters, including service, décor, and others, assigning the business a score between 1 and 30 (30 being the best.)
At the moment, Google has not completely phased out the old Google Places listing system, leading to some confusion among businesses about how they can effectively manage their online listing. The company has promised greater clarity in the months ahead.
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