Google is Social

Google’s lack of a clear social strategy has created a lot of fodder for those that follow tech. Google is overwhelmingly known as a search-centric company (for good reason) but the rise of Facebook in recent years has created speculation that their golden egg could indeed face stiff competition from Facebook (and its 650M user base) should they eat into search. Turning the tables, it’s been pretty clear Google needs to respond to the rise of “social”, leveraging their significant assets to ensure the field isnt a one-company show. At theSocial-Loco conference this past week in San Francisco, there was more revealed by Marissa Mayer of Google and others.

One of the panel moderators at Social-Loco cited a term coinage by noted Silicon Valley investor John Doerr that’s more useful to understanding what Google is up to than the concept “social” alone: SoLoMo, or social + location + mobile.

SoLoMo offers a reminder that data sets do not exist in a vacuum. Search expert and Web 2.0 Conference co-chair John Battelle has described several categories of data that are relevant to Google and its kin: There’s the social graph (contacts, friends), interest data (likes, tweets, recommendations), search data (queries, history), purchase data (what you buy, credit card numbers), location data (where you are, have been, and are going), and content data (behavior when engaged with content).

As for mobile, it’s more of a mode than a data type; it’s relevant because mobile data comes from customers who could be ready for commerce in the real world rather than the online one.

These categories can be combined and redefined, but together they represent the scope of information that’s meaningful to Google and its competitors. While Google may not yet have a social graph to match Facebook, it has other kinds of data, like geo-spatial data. Google Maps and Google Earth form the foundation of the social layer the company is building. Google Places, which relies on Maps, has five million reviews–the product of social connection–and that number is growing at a rate of a million per month.

In an interview following her presentation at Social-Loco, Mayer suggested that Google and Facebook are approaching the same problem from different angles. Asked whether she thought it was fair to say that Google’s approach to social is more geo-centric than Facebook’s, she said, “Maybe. I do think that having imagery, having the platform to provide the maps is a big investment. So we have a lot going with Google’s hardware and our cloud and the investments we make there. Being able to do something like Street View and developing our own ground-truth maps in various countries, that’s a big investment and a lot of smaller companies may not start there. They start somewhere more social.”

“We’re starting with this investment that we’ve made to really have this amazing mirror of the physical world available in digital form,” Mayer continued. “And now I think we’re building on top of that platform to think about what we can do on the social side. We’re all coming at the same problem, but based on investments to date you might start at a different place.”

Google’s platform is an advertising platform, one for which SoLoMo is increasingly relevant, but is also problematic: Social data and location data raise significant privacy concerns. Apple and Google were reminded of this recently when reports about iPhones storing location data and Android phones transmitting it had to be explained away.

To read full coverage of the conference from InformationWeek click HERE

Online Reputation Management for Physicians (Part 1 of 3)

In this particular post I am going to explain a bit about why physicians should care about online reputation management (ORM). In two follow-on posts I’ll share high level guidance on the proactive management of one’s reputation and deal with the repair or reactive options when misinformation or mistakes need to be corrected.

As the online world becomes more pervasive, reputations are increasingly built and managed on the Internet. Online Reputation Management is the process of monitoring, addressing or mitigating SERPs (search engine result pages) or mentions in online and social media.

Physicians are as visible as anyone on the Internet and the visibility is only going to increase.  Historically a physician understood he/she was a leadership figure in the community. A certain expectation and responsibility is inherent in the role. While physicians aren’t expected to be super-human, they are role models, like it or not. With the proliferation of information on the Internet, driven heavily by blogs and more recently “social media”, a physician’s reputation can get enhanced and/or dinged in a nano-second.

Several weeks ago I spoke with a group of physicians in Oregon. In advance I did a Google search of several of those who were going to be in the meeting and took screen shots of the first page on Google. In every instance there was misinformation about the physician. In several cases the mistakes were significant. In that same discussion, physicians described the hassles they go through trying to correct bad information on sites like Vitals, HealthGrades, Yelp etc. One operations manager for a large group in attendance shared a story that took place several months prior in which a patient wrote a scathing review of one of their doctors on Angie’s List. They didn’t think much of it until they realized the review received thousands of hits within weeks. That’s a reputation management problem!

More and more patients are researching physicians online. Fellow physicians are doing the same. Unless you are on the verge of retirement, you have to pay attention. This affects primary care physicians just as much as specialists and surgeons. While employed physicians may think they are immune, not true. Not only does your institution gain or lose on the collective reputations of its physicians, but you may not always be in the same role. Ignoring your online reputation now is akin to college kids posting pictures of themselves involved in all kinds of bungholery on Facebook, thinking that the professional world is far off in the distance. It’s your professional reputation. You worked hard to get where you are and you owe it to yourself to manage and protect it.

Before discussing tools and techniques for managing one’s reputation, I want to make sure we have a common understanding of reputation and who might care and why.

To keep things simple, let’s focus on just two primary constituents that matter when it comes to a physician’s reputation: colleagues and patients. In each case they care about different things, with one major area of overlap loosely categorized as competency. At the end of the day, colleagues want to associate with competent peers and collaborate in the treatment process with colleagues who will match their standards. Patients obviously want to be treated and healed in the most effective manner possible. This doesn’t diminish interests in ancillary issues like cost, personality fit and so one….but at the end of the day results speak loudest.

In the offline world (we use to say ‘the real world’), one’s professional reputation was built through the combination of a number of things:

  • Outcomes
  • Collaboration/Assistance
  • Word-of-mouth based on people’s experience or perception
  • Research/Publishing
  • Teaching
  • Speaking
  • Community involvement including charitable contributions
  • Extracurricular activities

Interestingly, reputations are built the same way today. The difference is the velocity at which information spreads and the distances it travels.  Outcomes are perhaps more widely known today with the ease at which data is accessed and passed along. There is a now fairlhy commoly understood truth that if a restaurant has one good customer experience they’ll tell 1 friend, but if they have a poor experience they’ll tell 10. Not only does this essentially hold true for physicians, but the 1 or the 10 are reached leaps and bounds faster than in the pre-Internet days. Additionally, the numbers go from 1 and 10 to 1,000 and 10,000 in some cases. Thought leaders are still thought leaders, only today they have a few more tools at their disposal. Their voice is magnified through the power of the web. Same holds true for collaboration, research and so forth.

To summarize, your online reputation is serious business. You owe it to yourself to pay it some attention.