Facebook vs Google ( plus ) :The battle continues

by Ashvini on July 20, 2011 · 18 comments

in Business

If there is a fascinating subject of warfare where no casualties occur but the battle goes on,it is  Google vs. Facebook battle. I love to analyze the battle that has been going on between two large companies, one a giant and another a social media titan.

The giant Google has sounded the bugle. No longer it is afraid to take the battle into titan Facebook’s territory. It has had enough. It really feels that the title of the giant of the Internet belongs to Google and not to Facebook.

Google plus is everywhere

Jokes apart, last month was a month that was very eventful in terms of launch of Google plus. With Google plus, Google has finally stopped tiptoeing around Facebook with not so great products and instead decided to tackle Facebook head=on. Google plus was launched with much fanfare. The invites started to flow but were soon stopped when Google got overwhelmed with the demand( really? ) . The notable features included Circles, where you could add friends and the huddle where many friends could video chat together. A few less notable features were also introduced. Google successfully played to the gallery with more privacy options( though it has the largest amount of data on anyone on earth) hitting Facebook almost where it hurts the most.

It is easier to get an actor to be a cowboy than to get a cowboy to be an actor – John Ford

( I don’t know how it fits but I liked the quote)

Internet was abuzz with how Google plus was on the better side of Facebook. After all it had more privacy, better features and an almost Facebook like look. In fact a few pictures that floated showed it customized exactly to look like Facebook. There are sites after sites comparing Google Plus with Facebook. In features department Google plus fared much much better until Facebook brought its own chat application in association with Skype.

How many bullets you got?

Till now Google plus has garnered support of 10m( 18m as of latest ) users compared to 750 m users that use Facebook. That is mark of its popularity in short amount of time.

The interesting point to note , that most of the analysts have forgotten is how many of the 10m are still on Facebook. In my opinion, most of them are still there. They like Google plus and they still cannot leave Facebook. Thus none out of own them exclusively. However Facebook still owns 740 m ( 750 –10)  exclusively, those that Google would like to woo.

Even after so much slogans that are being hurled in the online world, I am not very hopeful that Google plus will ever displace Facebook from number one.

No one could ever displace Google from Search Engine leadership. No one could beat Microsoft in Desktop office . No one could beat Amazon in e-retail sales.

There have been cases where number one has been toppled by number one, but often they are not in majority.

To start with my argument, if you ever purchase a software, do you really go by features all the time? Yes, it is more bang for a buck but do you really use all the features? It is quite possible that you get excited initially by the count of features but how many of them you possibly use. I would say  , only 20% ( based on the famous 80/20 rule).

So what has war got to do with Facebook vs Google?

Let us look at this from a battle point of view. Though warfare technology has rendered advantage of heights irrelevant, in a business, such a warfare is not possible. If you study history, you will find that most of the time, the entrenched enemy is extremely difficult to topple if not impossible. The entrenched enemy has good knowledge of terrain, has been there for a long time andis  dug in . It is has been proven that battle for an army has always been tough that is going up the hill to fight the enemy that is entrenched on the hilltop.

Some years ago, Microsoft used to be a dominating IT company. Its software ruled PCs ( still does) till the Internet arrived. Microsoft was so busy with ts core business that it gave internet revolution a miss.

This is what I could find about Google in those days:

Web darling Google has some fresh competition: a pair of start-ups aiming to improve on its immensely popular recipe for serving fast, relevant search results untainted by pay-for-placement listings.

Read more: http://news.cnet.com/2100-1023-272230.html#ixzz1ScqTbXo8

Web darling ?

From a web darling to a web giant Google has traveled quite a bit in time. Doing a “time search” ( year 2000) on Microsoft vs Google, I was hard pressed to find any news about Google.

Google has done what a start-up, using disruptive technology does to a giant and in the process become one. Now it is the new Microsoft, earning a lot and having huge market cap.

If you look at Facebook it is doing the same to Google that Google did to Microsoft, using disruptive concepts and innovation . Google is responding similar as Microsoft ( Google Plus vs Facebook and Bing Vs Google). Even though MS’s Bing provides better results than Google , it is lagging far behind Google in internet search market. A case of being too late, when the party is over.

Better product wins ?

The argument that a better product wins, is not always true. There are many operating systems that exists today. Many of them are much better than Windows Vista and seven ( the geek community which includes me would agree ;) . However, how many consumers actually use them over Microsoft? A very few and I am talking of not-so technically challenged people. Success in business market of course depends on a good product but is also on  the right perception and occupying the category first.

TIP: If you ever find a category that is unseen by others in business, launch a product in that category. Once you create a perception, others will find it very hard to break it.

Example : Today hundreds of companies make Photocopier instruments ( Canon, Xerox, HP etc.) but how does general public call a photocopy , a Xerox. Why? Because the name is stuck and even if Xerox is no longer a leader, the name Xerox is still synonymous with photocopying.

Size matters ? Not if it is not your turf.

Next argument is that Google just by its sheer size will crush Facebook. Truth is far far from this argument. If this was the case, Google would have never become what it was today and IBM would not have allowed Microsoft to take over its PC business. If that was the case none of the start-ups would be successful in the face of mighty giants. History has recorded otherwise.

Another argument is that Google is growing in many products while Facebook leads in only one. That is true but that does not indicate that Facebook is going to go down to Google. Facebook has acquired a characteristic of its own and enjoys a huge brand perception, ignored for a really long time by Google. Though Google is a fantastic technology company, the only product that competes directly with Facebook is Google plus. The winner is still not decided yet.

Line extension trap rears its ugly head again

Google plus is also under severe line extension trap with Google plus. It has smartly played other categories such as Gmail, Android and others( with Google silently hiding behind). I am not saying that this law is perfect but it works most of the time.

I am not in love with Facebook particularly. To tell you , I am more of a fan of Orkut, which stands much neglected when so much focus is on Google plus. In my opinion Google plus will find it very hard to beat Facebook until Facebook commits blunders or leaves a void for Google to pick over. In the near future, I do not see that happening.

So what do you think what are the things Google doing right? Or how would it favour in Facebook vs Google battle

PS: Yesterday Linked in owner said that Google plus will not be successful and people responded by saying that Google plus has twitter , Facebook and Linked in features combined and hence it will kill all of them. I don’t think so because they are leaders in their own areas and are very smart not to encroach on each other territories

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{ 18 comments }

Sprinkler Buff September 23, 2011 at 12:09 am

Here’s the mindset people (should) have. With Google plus being WAY better, Facebook has already revamped and will continue to make serious changes to the layout, function, and experience of the social network. So far, they’re just trying to implement features the Google+ provides; which is totally natural. I think that instead of people forcing themselves to learn how to use Facebook all over again, they should just switch to G+. With all the changes Facebook is making, why not try something COMPLETELY new (and better) on for size? If you don’t like it (which you will) you can go back to FB.

Yan @ Video Conferencing September 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Facebook is still the King of social networking sites, and for the foreseeable future Google will be the King of the search engines. I really, believe that this is how it will stay, and maybe they should both focus on maintaining a market share in what they are good at instead of trying to compete with each other.

Aleta July 25, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I’m not a techie. I’m a run of the mill computer user. I’m with Facebook and for the time being, I don’t plan on joining Google birth baby +. A couple of my friends have looked at the + features and enjoy it, but most of my family and friends are sticking with Facebook, for the convenience of it, for the already established network, for the ease of already knowing the set up.

The one thing that will turn the tide is if Facebook starts to charge. When it affects my pocket book, there’s no more need for it.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena July 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Hi Aleta,

Thanks for coming to my blog and commenting on it :)
Despite the fact that you are not a techie, you have analyzed a tricky situation very well. :). Your reasons are precisely the one why Google plus will find it difficult to gain more users. The less technical a user is, the less likely she is to move between networks. If one is a social media expert now one will have to deal with multiple networks which confuse customers.
I don’t think Facebook will ever charge for basic services but they are charging for putting ads. So they are making money on it and that is what Google is after/
Thank you for dropping by and hope to see you soon .

Carolyn July 25, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Ashvini, reading your blog posts is like sitting in an advanced business class at a top university. You explain concepts clearly, voice your well-reasoned opinion, then engage in fascinating, in-depth discussions.

I, too, am intrigued by this battle (great writing, I loved the quote too!), but I don’t know who will win. The marketing landscape is cluttered with the landfills of superior products that failed to inferior ones (the earliest I can think of in the tech world is Sony’s Betamax vs. VHS). When high definition DVD players were launched, people held off buying them (and the DVD’s) until they knew which format the movie industry would adopt (Blu-Ray won).

But people are only spending time, not money, joining these social media sites, so they can sign up with multiple sites to see which they like best.

Google is first and foremost an advertising company and doesn’t want to lose out on the advertising revenue generated by Facebook.

Factors which may determine the winner are cool, fun and features. If Facebook suddenly seems like your grandfather’s social media site, how many under 30’s will flock to Google+?

I would be very interested to learn your thoughts on Google+ v. Orkut. Perhaps in a future blog post?

I would also be interested in reading your thoughts on this battle in a year. But I will be back visiting your blog very often in the meantime!

Thanks for sharing your truly brilliant analysis and writing with us!

Ashvini Kumar Saxena July 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Hi Carolyn,

I am so much flattered by your opinion of my blog and writing. But I know that it is not grammatically 100% correct ;) ( I have problems with in, with etc.).
Yes, this battle is very exciting and we should consider ourselves lucky to witness such a thing that is being discussed almost daily in many blogs and sites. I can only read about Betamax because it never came to India. That technology was I think was redundant in USA before it even came here. I only remember watching VHS format cassettes in my childhood.
I was previously of the opinion that great products always win. Unfortunately that is not the case. The product that makes space in customer’s mind and manage to keep it wins. You examples are proof of that.
In my opinion, Google can be successful than Fabcebook only when it is able to build an ecosystem which matches facebook. It may have to really think differently than just to copy ideas and call them their own. I think Google can learn from success of Android ( Now Samsung phones are selling almost equal to iphones). Android is the product of future.
Google plus is not a competitor of Orkut ( we all know that ). But Google plus is going to cannibalize orkut. Once Google plus reaches a success point, in my opinion orkut will be gone and things migrated to Google plus. But I see I can compare Facebook vs Orkut , that would be interesting :) What do you say?
Thanks again for coming to my site and leaving awesome comments :) .
Have a great day.
Ashvini

Daria Steigman July 22, 2011 at 2:38 am

Hi Ashvini,

I have to disagree with you on the line extension piece. It seems to me that Google has finally stopped throwing one-off social features at the wall to see what will stick. Instead, with Google+, the company appears to have thought about how to integrate a social platform into its core (search) business model.

Will it be a “Facebook killer”? Not likely any time soon, for the reasons you’ve quite well defined. But Google+ has promise because millions of people already have a reason to interact with the company. So while Google+ is a different place to hang out, it’s not an unfamiliar place.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena July 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Hi Daria,
Hope you are doing great.
Thanks for your comments :). I think and that may be my opinion, the brand is slightly stretched from before. When I talk of social media, the thing that comes to my mind are FB and twitter. May be Google had done it well but in my opinion there is a lot of time before it will kill facebook ( provided Facebook does not make grand mistakes ).

Thanks for adding to the discussion and hope to see you soon.
Best regards

Adrienne July 22, 2011 at 1:40 am

Hey Ashvini,

Wow, thanks for all the time and thought it took to write this post. Boy did I find it interesting to read this perspective when you used the examples of the other brand names such as Microsoft, Xerox, etc.

I can see because Google is bigger that they want to outrank Facebook eventually but with 750 million users on Facebook who like Facebook, not everyone will be moving over. I believe I read some statistics a few weeks back that the younger generation that doesn’t care much about their privacy will stick with Facebook while the older generation might consider moving over. After just doing some research of my own for a post I wrote today, 50% of the popular is 30 and under. They are going to stick with where their friends are.

It should be interesting to see what happens over the next few years. For right now, I’m still with Facebook although I am on Google+ as well. I just haven’t had time to figure it all out so that I even know if I like it or not. Only time will tell.

Adrienne

Ashvini Kumar Saxena July 23, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Hi Adrienne,

Welcome once again to my blog. I love to read your comments and opinions :).

It really took some time to write this post :). I think all of us have the same dilemma. Where to go next? Facebook is not innovating that much. Google plus was a definite change.
Though from my work experience , I would like to say that companies that innovate may often not win ( really) because they are competing head on with the leader. The leader has to just makes some tweaks here and there to make sure that it is dominant. Yesterday, I was reading about Peter Drucker’ theory on innovation. He says that entrepreneurs look for places where there is no demand and create demand out of them. Social media is so full of companies, one more was not really needed. Now we have MS too coming in with its own social media tool :).
Innovation has to be in different areas. For eg Google Android, gmail, labs where google has created some innovative features are a few example. Here the leaders were destroyed by their sloth and lack of innovations.
Your information on age profile of users looks excellent. I think that would be one of the primary reasons people would stay there.
I am not taking any sides just putting things as they are :) and I love to know from everyone what they think .
Your opinions are valuable. Thanks for sharing with us.

Wim @ Sales Sells July 21, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Hi Ashvini,

I don’t see facebook dying any day soon, but I think there is a lifespan to every social media network. If facebook stops innovating, maybe even reinventing itself, people will move on at some point in time. New platforms are developed everyday and Google definitely has the skills, talent and scope to make this work.

Wim

Ashvini Kumar Saxena July 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Hi Wim,

Welcome back and thanks for your comments :)

I think what you mean is introduction of “disruptive technologies and ideas”. Is it ? Yes disruptive technologies are difficult to handle . The problem with google is that it has taken too long to create a social media product. Isn’t it always difficult to fight the leader ( unless you find some points that you can sell upon)? The threats to facebook as I see is if they stop innovating like Google and /or emergence of disruptive technologies in future.
Love to see you here my friend :)

Aswani July 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Very thoughtful analysis…Ashvini. Well, just a few days back…I also had come up with a very similar analysis on my blog. Honestly, I love Facebook but yes, I have been very active on Google+ as well. Two important things I would like to highlight here. One is the statement from Google team itself which says that unlike facebook which is more like a hangout thing for people, Google+ is more about preserving leadership. More can be read here – http://news.yahoo.com/google-social-net-preserving-leadership-090506135.html

And other important statement as you have pointed out in your blog, comes from the LinkedIn CEO who says that Google+ won’t be so successful as people really do not have so much free time to spend on another social network.

Now, if you are asking me…I think yes..it is all about time management today. To find time for so many social networks today, it really is a tough ask. And when you look at the fact that Google+ is simply a clone of the facebook then why to switch over to the same. Yes, Privacy is one of the concerns but honestly, how much does it affect. I think issues like personal privacy on social networks have been overhyped. For a very simple reason, there is nothing like privacy on social networks as said by Mark Zuckerberg itself…why is it so difficult for people to understand and follow. If you are so concerned about privacy then why do you share anything private. Why not simply avoid it? Ofcourse, Google+ has hit facebook very badly here with its innovative concept of circles but I feel it shouldn’t be long enough before we see something similar being implemented by facebook also.

Yes, the battle has begun but facebook still has a greater edge over Google+ at present. Users do matter and so Google+ has a long way to go and I am sure they are upto it. Let us wait and watch..!

Aswani July 21, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Ashvini, this is the link where you can read more about what LinkedIn has said about Google+ not being as successful as facebook – http://www.pcworld.com/article/235981/linkedin_boss_is_down_on_google.html

Ashvini Kumar Saxena July 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Aswani,

My dear friend, awesome points. I have seen your article and here it is for others to see .
Privacy may be a large concern but yes if that was the sole reason so many people would not have signed up and gladly shared their information. It brings up an important economic question. If people are given some tools for free which they can use to make their lives better, they would part with their private information. It is strange because we thought people would hide this information rather than share. That means if we reduce the barrier we can extract as much information as we want from them. It is both useful and deadly conclusion.
Now next it sets sight on Twitter after the deal has collapsed. It is so difficult to fight on so many fronts and in my opinion whole product will become average. Your link of yahoo says quite a thing about why and what of the social media fight.
It is going to be interesting to watch how it turns out.
Thanks for commenting once again.

Aswani July 23, 2011 at 10:40 pm

You are most welcome…Ashvini

Mouh July 21, 2011 at 8:42 pm

I don’t think Google will take over Facebook. I do think that the millions that use Google + are still using FB. As you said when you create a perception, others will find it very hard to break it. The amazing example of Xerox, Microsoft, Google, etc. are cast-iron evidence.

I think when companies get bigger, they tend to be less risky. Google now is so big. Are they willing to take risk when it comes to social media? When Facebook started, it was small and therefore willing to take risk. If FB fails, who would notice? But if Google does, then that’s something big, right?

Ashvini Kumar Saxena July 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Hi Mouh,

Microsoft never cared for internet like Google never cared for social. Google has to show to its shareholder that it can make more money. However I find it difficult to understand why not put the same money into new ideas and win from there. With bigger companies risk taking become less and less ( you said it).
I think they are trying to get the feet in whatever they can on account of huge user base they have got but it will interesting to watch how things turn in future.
I Appreciate your comments and keep coming back.

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