The social web is a well reported topic within the media today, and for good reason. We are in a transitional change with how we communicate with each other online, how brands reach consumers and how organisations market to their audience. We are undoubtedly immersed in the technology age, and our lives, the way we interact with others, is changing totally.
The monumental success of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s world leading social platform, has enticed brands, consumers, investors alike, and the world is continually awaiting for that ‘next big thing’. A likely reason therefore that the majority of news stories, magazine articles and blog posts on Google’s latest foray into the social web repeatedly draw up comparisons to Zuckerberg’s global giant.
Predicting the next big thing is often easier than some might think. You simply have to look at what is already out there, not at who’s focusing on doing something different, but rather someone who’s doing it better.
Take the iPod for example. Certainly not the first digital music player on the market, but Apple’s cult status products have led the way in both design and function. Google was certainly not the first search engine. Remember the likes of Lycos, Hotbot and AltaVista? Google simply developed a product that was faster, cleaner, and easier to use than its rivals, and they now command a dominating portion of the search market.
Skype too was not the first online video chat service, but with successful brand building and fantastic integration with offline communication, it continues to be the world’s favourite online audio/video communication tool.
Better Than Anyone Else
What each of these have in common was that they set out to do something better than anyone else, and combinations of that excitement Facebook created across the globe, possible lethargy experienced by current Facebook users, and perhaps close mindedness from reviewers has led to those inevitable comparisons between Google+ and Facebook as the world continues to watch, and wait for that next big thing.
What if from the outset, Google+ was never supposed to simply be a competitor to Facebook? What if Google wasn’t bringing the fight to Palo Alto, swords drawn and ready to take them on. No no, Google’s vision was much, much bigger than that, and it comes down to one thing. Advertising.
However, what if from the outset, Google+ was never supposed to simply be a competitor to Facebook? What if Google wasn’t bringing the fight to Palo Alto, swords drawn and ready to take them on. No no, Google’s vision was much, much bigger than that, and it comes down to one thing.
Google is built on advertising. 97% of their total revenues in fact, which from Q3 2010 to Q2 2011 totalled $33.3bn.
The key strength of Google’s advertising platform is that it provides advertisers with the ability to market to an audience at the point when they are actively searching for something that the advertiser has to offer. However, in all of its might, the platform falls short in that, aside from the user’s geographical location, Google knows relatively little about the person conducting the search. Facebook’s huge revenues (estimated by PrivCo to hit $3.15bn in 2011) also come predominantly from their online advertising platform, just under 80%.
The monumental success of Facebook’s ad platform is down to their ability to target a very precise audience. With filters such as age, gender, precise location, even their school or favourite TV programme, Facebook’s ad platform currently allows advertisers to target their exact demographic.
However, it too has its own shortcomings, in that whilst you have the ability to be incredibly targeted with your advertising, you are never reaching people at the point when they are looking for something. The strength of each platform is the other’s downfall, and both organisations realise this. However, the search giant holds the upper hand as they are in a strong position to change this.
Social = Data
Contrary to popular belief, Google+ was never created to directly compete for people’s time on the internet. A simple, ad free system, Google+ was launched to compete for users’ personal data. Becoming the primary platform for social networking would simply be a bonus.
Speaking at the Monaco Media Forum recently, Nikesh Arora, Google’s chief business officer said that Google+ is a platform that allows the bringing together of all the services and products that they currently offer. It was never “just about getting people together on one site and calling it a social network”.
The real power behind what Google has created comes down to the integration of Google’s products, meaning that as people are using the search engine, they are also logged into Google+. The combination of that user data and knowing when people are actively searching for something opens up the possibility of the most targeted advertising platform in history, and Google are very aware of the fact.
Contrary to popular belief, Google+ was never created to directly compete for people’s time on the internet. A simple, ad free system, Google+ was launched to compete for users’ personal data. Becoming the primary platform for social networking would simply be a bonus
Little over a week into taking the reigns as CEO, Larry Page prioritised the company’s social media strategy, by directly linking the annual bonuses of over 25% of Google employees to the success or failure of their social products.
Passing the 50 million member mark this month, Google are well on their way to amassing a huge user information database. Whilst questions have been raised about how committed these users are, rather than need to get people to use the service on a daily basis like Facebook, who rely on holding the audience’s attention in order to show as many ads as possible, all Google require is the initial sign up to take full advantage of the user’s data.
Tied into their ad platform, the data becomes significantly more valuable, and overlaid with search results will not only provide advertisers with a much greater ability to target their adverts, potentially improving click through rates and conversions (and thus allowing Google to charge much higher rates for their advertising), but also this has the ability to vastly improve the overall internet experience for the consumer.
The modern internet is social, and Google have made a huge play, which could signify one of the biggest changes in how the internet is brought to the user. However, users will have to relinquish significantly more personal data in exchange for that improved experience.