Google+ Launches Share Button, Ignores That Few Users = No Referral Traffic = No Installs

Blogs and content sites are only willing to give up valuable real estate and clutter themselves with social sharing buttons if they get ample referral traffic in return. That’s the big problem with the Google+ Share button that launched today with no launch partners or live examples of it in use. The embeddable button for posting webpages to the Google+ news feed with an optional comment is going to struggle for installs unless Google can prove it drives page views.

After flops like the Google Buzz and +1 buttons, and plenty of competition, it’s going to be a tough sell. In the end, it could backfire, sidestepping the bullshit registered user counts Google cites as awesome growth and exposing the social network as a place few people spend time. And it’s all kind of sad because the G+ Share button could be the answer to the Google+ content drought.

The G+ Share button and +1 button are almost identical so let’s clear up how they work. One-click the +1 button and a public recommendation for the page shows up in search results for it, and it appears in the +1s section of your G+ profile. Add a comment or click Share and select an audience when you +1 something and a full story will appear in the G+ news feeds of those you shared to who’ve circled you as well.

Meanwhile, the Share button isn’t public by default. It requires an initial click to bring up the share prompt and comment box, and a second click to share that Page to the G+ feed. So really, the +1 button is more versatile and powerful, but also public and I bet lots of people one-clicked it thinking they were sharing to their feed as if they clicked a Like button.

I have Google+, and I don’t mind using the site. While I frequently criticize Google’s execution of its social strategy, I think there’s big potential for the G+ “macronetwork” concept where you can share with people you have very different relationships with from one place. But without plenty of friends actively sharing content on G+ or tagging me in photos, I rarely visit. This worsens the drought since without its Share and +1 buttons there’s no way to post to Google+ without visiting. That’s because Google+ has purposefully refused to open a publishing API to let people post through third-party apps, as Google+ director Vic Gundotra fears third-parties could overrun the unfiltered stream.

By being more familiar than +1 and allowing me to share without visiting, the G+ Share button could inject great content into Google+. But first it needs widespread installation which requires a proper launch. That’s not what it got today, totally overshadowed by the launch of Google Drive and Apple’s earnings announcement.

The lack of launch partners was especially shortsighted. Facebook recently released its Subscribe button with Forbes, MSNBC, and TechCrunch, while Spotify’s Play button appeared on The Huffington Post (owned by AOL, as is TechCrunch), Rolling Stone, and The Guardian. How hard would it have been to scratch the back of some popular sites and get G+ Share buttons installed on them for today so as to inspire others to install and give users a real way to try it?

Facebook and Twitter have peppered the world with their sharing buttons, turning the entire web into content feeders for their networks. Pinterest has its own button too. However, all these networks had significant engagement, not just user counts, when they launched their buttons. In exchange for the publicity and content, they send monetizable traffic back to sites. TechCrunch actually removed our Google Buzz button long before it was scrapped by Google because it wasn’t sending us any traffic.

Now we’re going to get a real pulse check of Google+. If it doesn’t drive traffic, no one will install it, and those that do will remove. Google is running up against a serious chicken-and-egg problem here, and could end up with that egg on its face.