Google + Facebook
Opinions are floating all over the internet about Google+ and what it means for Facebook’s dominance in the Social Media arena. to quote my friend Zach, The Tech world loves its Cliches.
Well here’s mine: Facebook should be sh****ing their pants over Google+, and that’s a good thing for everyone.
I’ve been purposefully waiting a bit before sharing my thoughts on G+ and its implications in the Social Media space- partly to see how its adoption is going and partly to not jump the gun on my opinion. Google+ is definitely going to improve our current state of social media, and here’s why:
Facebook has become a fat and sloppy behemoth since its iconic rise to the top. The problem with a company having a monopoly on something is that it breeds complacency. Products tend to evolve more in a competitive environment. Without any viable competitors to one-up, Facebook really has no need to evolve its products and UX in earnest. As long as no one became a threat to its ad revenue, it could get away with doing the bare minimum.
It’s no secret, Facebook’s laundry list of issues has become quite long:
- It’s lack of compatibility with Chrome is laughable
- the app library is a mess
- developers constantly lament the issues of using Facebook’s ever-changing API
- overall user options for fan pages and events are abysmal (and forget about trying to invite a meaningful amount of people to an event in bulk
- Facebook’s colossal issues with spammy phishing posts (ex: You won’t believe what this girl did when her dad caught her on her webcam!)
- a sub-par messaging system
- Abysmal contact management
- privacy issues are a constant flare-up among the user base and media
I’ll stop there, but it’s indicative. On top of that, customer service of Facebook-related issues are all but non-existant. Most people aren’t paying ad clients on Facebook, so what are they going to do, ask for their money back? At the end of the day, Those issues are minor, and don’t get in the way of Facebook leveraging its huge user base into a super attractive avenue for targeted advertising.
And then came Google+. It’s look and feel were similar to Facebook, but it felt, well, Google-ier. I’ve been messing around with it for some time and think it’s quite powerful.
G+’s major advantage is that it has the potential to offer google users an unsurpassed level of integration. Google’s strength lies in its inter-connectedness of all its products: Search, Gmail, Google Apps, Android, Chrome. Everything can be connected, and each of those products are robust in their own right. The fact is that those products are essential tools that power users have incorporated into their everyday lives. Further integration into a social network construct makes sense and is a win. G+ is going to allow Googlers to tie everything together, and that’s a powerful proposition:
Email, messaging, video chat, content sharing, discussion, events, places, and mobile are all going to converge on G+.
Google’s approach to creating the network is the complete opposite of Facebook’s. Google developed its individual products first, iterating and improving them over time, and then integrating them with one another. the social network came afterwards, and allows for a powerful set of tools to come together. Facebook developed the framework of the social network first, and then added on products ad hoc. The result is that Facebook’s individual components aren’t nearly as robust, but more people are inherently using them.
For instance, Google’s instant messaging feature wipes the floor with Facebook’s as it’s just an implementation of Google talk. Video chat has been around for ages on Gtalk, and the addition of the hangout feature is a fantastic mash-up of group chat, video chat, Google Wave, and ChatRoulette. It’s an innovative implementation of a social communication feature that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Google’s use of “Circles” to manage friends is simple and intuitive. It allows people to tailor their content to the right audiences, and its a better implementation that Facbook’s groups function. The news streams end up being better sources of content, as the content is now meant for specific groups of people. The Sparks feature also fosters engagement and sharing in specific subjects. That results in improved user engagement.
Google’s mobile app is also pretty good. the option to instantly upload all photos taken with the phone to a private album for future sharing is genius.
I also can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a social platform that is (at the moment) free of the games and useless apps. Facebook had become a crowded, messy place. and while you can hide the stuff you don’t want to see, it became a pain to navigate. There’s something to be said about having a clean slate to work off of.
G+ still has a ways to go, but its path to success is apparent. There’s just so much potential for integration. For example, I can’t wait for G+ events to seamlessly integrate with Google Calendar. (haven’t seen it yet but it can’t be too far off). G+ will also have a positive impact on Google’s search engines when it inevitably incorporates social listening into its search algorithms.
While it’s a powerful framework for a social network, G+ still needs to jump a few hurdles before its considered a success: Adoption, brand integration, and Ad revenue are all telling indicators of its success on a business level.
Preliminary reports show that G+’s user base grew to 10 million in two weeks of invite-only field trial testing. A far cry from Facebook’s massive population, but it’s still significant. I’d also like to point out that those 10 million users should be considered more valuable than the average Facebook user. They are more likely to be tech-forward influencers whose voices are more significant in the online space.
As for brand adoption and ad revenue, it’s yet to be seen. Brand accounts should become a reality in the next few weeks, and advertising should come soon after.
And that’s what it’s all about: Ad revenue. If G+ becomes a dominant platform that captures the attention of a large userbase, it becomes a real threat to Facebook. Google’s experience with search advertising is going to come in handy, and I’m curious to see how G+ advertising ties in with the already robust adwords and analytics tools. Zucherberg is no dummy, and the folks at FB definitely see the apparent threat. In the meantime, Facebook advertising is still a powerful, cost effective incumbent for digital advertising.
Personally, I think G+’s entrance into the social scene is a great thing. It has the potential to enhance Google’s existing products through incremental integration. The market can sustain two major Social networks at the moment, provided that they both actively compete for market share by constantly improving and evolving their products. The real benefit comes from G+ being a catalyst for competition with Facebook. That rivalry should spur product development and UX improvements on both sides, which I totally welcome. We’ll have Google to thank for Facebook getting better in the next few months. If that doesn’t happen, well, +1 to Google.