In the gentleman’s discord which was the spat between Google and Facebook, Google+ was the pawn the former moved against the latter in a strategic move intended to help Facebook grow up and play nice.

Facebook retaliated almost immediately with an ‘awesome’ announcement that fizzed and has since changed the functionality of its commenting system to create inline comments on posts to its members Walls so that they avoid replication and duplication of content (and create noise), changed the way you can share content to imitate Google’s Circles functionality and has experimented with unfiltered content on its Wall, in effect nullifying the EdgeRank it had in place which stopped some posts from being seen by everyone.

Until now, Google+ was not really a direct competitor to Facebook. While the latter aimed at creating social networks between friends the former was aimed at fostering social media connections amongst like-minded individuals roaming the web. While Facebook wanted everyone to join ‘Club Facebook’ and interact, Google+ was all about saying ‘Hey, I saw you liked a webpage featuring the mating habits of Bonobo primates and thought I’d say hi’ to a stranger. No more. Or at least, yes, all that plus a lot more.

In a move that’s now a direct, gauntleted slap across Facebook’s face Google+ is rolling out functionality intended to help its users make connections with each other based upon location, education and even work experience.  The result will be that Google+ with its wider-web social function, impressive ability to affect search results rankings and importance in discovering new connections and new content, is now also be able to function as a club.

As we are rolling towards Christmas and Google+ is preparing to trial business pages this is an important move for the social network. By having access to such data its inline analytics (which it is working on) will be capable of giving businesses compelling reason to be on the social network just for its reporting precision alone. In addition, should Google decide to also now introduce advertising to G+, the additional data it will have from its social network will enable to refine its AdWords functionality to offer the same ability Facebook has to target by interest, age, education and background, initially within G+ and, eventually – as the volume of data grows – across the web.

The implication for social media marketers and businesses is obvious. What it means for ordinary users is that the competition between G+ and Facebook is now entering a new, more direct level and here they will be playing for the heart and mind of each one of us. In order to gain access to what we each have to offer they had better be prepared to gift us with the kind of functionality and responsiveness to complaints we have a right to expect.