Google Conducting Focus Group Research Into Social Networking

The blogosphere has been abuzz with word that Google may be developing a social network after Digg CEO Kevin Rose tweeted a few weeks ago that he’d heard a “huge rumor” that Google was planning to launch a Facebook competitor called “Google Me.” Adam D’Angelo, founder of Q&A service Quora, then claimed on his own that this is a real project for Google. And Google CEO Eric Schmidt hasn’t denied these reports. To add some more speculative fuel to the fire, Google is now conducting focus groups to gather information about consumers’ social habits.

According to a tip we received and confirmed, Google is asking people to conduct a short survey to verify their eligibility for a “usability study” with Google. Out tipster’s study is to take place at Google’s office in Dublin, Ireland. According to the survey, the duration of the study is 60 minutes, with particpants receiving 60 Euros. Of course, participants need to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement and allow Google to video record the session.

The questions focus around social networking as it relates both to real life (offline) and online. Interestingly, this line of questioning also seems to reflect Google’s social strategy and analysis that was unveiled through a recent presentation from Paul Adams, Google’s lead user-experience researcher. Other questions in the survey ask which search engines the participant uses and how often, which instant messaging platforms they use, and which Google products they use.

Online surveys to get feedback for current or future products isn’t new to Google, so it’s not particularly surprising that the search giant would conduct focus groups when evaluating the potential of a new product. While the survey doesn’t confirm the existence of “Google Me,” it certainly is another piece of evidence pointing in that direction. There’s no doubt that Google is serious about social networking and is evaluating where the gaps are in current offerings.

Here’s a list of the most interesting questions asked in the survey:

10a. In the last week, which of the following have you done (if any)? *
Please select all that apply
1. Met friends for coffee, food or drinks
2. Spent time with friends outside of the home
3. Watched or participated in sports or hobbies with others
2. None of the above

11. In the past 3 days, which of the following methods have you used outside of work to communicate with your friends and family (if any)? *
Please select all that apply.
1. Phone call
2. Email
3. Instant Messaging
4. Text Message (SMS)
5. Social Networking Site e.g. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn
6. None of the above

12a. In the past 3 days, which of the following social networking websites have you visited MORE THAN ONCE (if any)? *
Please select all that apply.
1. Facebook
2. Twitter
3. MySpace
4. LinkedIn
5. Friendster
6. Orkut

12b. In the last 2 weeks, how often have you accessed your “primary” social networking site (if any)? *
1. Less than once a week
2. About once a week
3. A few times a week
4. About once a day
5. Multiple times a day
6. I don’t use any social networking sites

13a. In the last week, which of the following websites have you posted content to (if any)?
Please select all that apply.
1. Photo sharing sites (e.g. Flickr, Picasa, Facebook Photos)
2. Video sharing sites (e.g. Youtube, Vimeo, DailyMotion)
3. Social Networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
4. Blogging sites (e.g. Blogger, WordPress)
5. Restaurant review sites (e.g. Yelp, CitySearch)
6. Product Review sites (e.g. Epinions, Consumer Reports)

14a. In the past 3 days, which of the following search engines have you used (if any)? *
Please select all that apply.
1. Google
2. Yahoo
3. Bing
4. None of the above

14c. In the past 2 months, which of the following types of things have you searched for online (if any)? *
Please check all that apply.
1. Another person
2. Yourself
3. A restaurant in the area
4. A product to purchase
5. Travel ideas
6. Health Information
7. News

16. Which of the following Instant Messaging (IM) program(s) do you use (if any)? *
(e.g., Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, Adium, Trillian, etc.)
1. Google Talk
2. AOL Instant Messenger
3. Yahoo Messenger
4. MSN Messenger / Live Messenger
5. Facebook IM

18c. Which of the following do you display on at least one of your profiles (if any)? *
Please select all that apply.
1. Real name
2. Photo
3. Occupation
4. City/ town of residence
5. Hometown
6. Hobbies/ interests
None of the above