Facebook vs. Google (Plus) – The search gets personal

by Ashvini on February 23, 2012 · 13 comments

in Business,My Personal Thoughts,Social Media

Facebook recently came up with billions of dollars IPO. People who have invested in it are expecting to get huge returns. Normally IPOs get very pricey because the media hypes them up and people in the anticipation of great return often bid it to unrealistic levels. This has been the story at least in Indian stock market where IPO fever once reached a crescendo and now does not attract much attention.

Leaving that aside, the Facebook and Google war intensified when Google decided to take “plus” to a higher level.

I have always maintained that Google is not going to win this war with Facebook unless

1) Facebook commits a lot of mistakes( that Google can capitalize on)  and

2) Social media gets its worth reduced with time or because of emergence of new ideas.

Where is the privacy?

A few week back Google decided to merge data from all its services and track users on a single log-on. I think this is totally understandable as Google is going to get more information about us ( users) so that it can target the ads more effectively. That is a great business move but not good from user perspective. Google has been known to customers and users as a company which prides itself on user privacy. By combining everything that we share or search, it has broken that promise.

Facebook was never known for sticking to provide good privacy. The thing that differentiated Google from Facebook was that Google had a reputation to protect privacy of the users( despite incursions like reading Gmail to sell ads). Now that it combines data , it probably knows a lot more about the user than any other company in the world. Its difficult to understand how it would help their reputation both in terms of data protection and privacy.

Facebook is reaching a billion plus

Despite Google’s attempt, the march of Facebook has been relentless. Now the number of users on the Facebook are nearing a billion and they are sharing terabytes of data. Facebook has employed really smart strategies, often copying Google plus features( like video calling though not to that sophisticated levels ). A leader in the segment would do exactly that to keep the competition at an arm’s distance.

Google plus has about 50-60 million user ( people are forecasting that it will reach 400 m users). However it will be really interesting to note if all the users joining Google plus are exclusive Google plus users. My experience doubts that. I believe most of these users are on both the networks.

Google is diluting the quality of search results

I respect Google and I believe you do too for the kind of quick and often very accurate result from the search. However now they are using the parameters from their social search to influence results which probably is neither satisfying nor desirable. Google is diluting its USP which is the search results. So while it gains on the business, it will prompt users to search for the alternatives causing harm to Google’s interest in the long term.

Facebook has far larger ecosystem in social media

Ecosystem has a definite bearing on how much successful a product is . Facebook has so many apps that often keep its user active and involved. With many popular gaming apps, Facebook is still the leader in social media gaming. Google plus still needs to develop that ecosystem in social media space( though it has started, even though the idea does not look much original).

Google has a phenomenal mobile OS which it can utilize to develop a great ecosystem but then it probably does not compete directly with Facebook.

Facebook still wins on perception

Thought Google plus badges have started popping up on many a blogs and sites but have they replaced Facebook badges? No. They exists alongside Facebook badges. Also Google plus brand may still lack the punch that Facebook brand has . I was talking to my mom who said that all our relatives are on Facebook. When I asked her “are they on Google plus too ? ” She asked “What is Google plus?”. I am sure that liker her, to hundreds of thousands of Facebook users, Google plus is still a distant unknown thing. It will take a lot of effort from Google plus to stop these users from using Facebook and move to Google plus.

Once a brand is established on consumer’s mind, it is very difficult to be erased. No matter how much us bloggers swear by the great technical features of Google plus, Facebook commands much higher mind space than Google plus.

In my opinion Google is really not winning this battle against Facebook. In fact it has lost out on a few strengths of its own. Google needs to do more not less on privacy . Google’s one of the biggest weapon against Facebook is privacy it offers to its users.

  1. It needs to strengthen privacy not weaken it
  2. It needs to keep working on delivering the best results from search not the results it thinks users want to see.
  3. Recognize that it is hard for it to win against Facebook in social media segment
  4. Concentrate on innovation as it has always done rather than copying an idea
  5. Enhance the great ecosystem of partners( customers and suppliers) by being more friendly and mutually beneficial.

What do you think of the Facebook and Google plus battle? Who do you think is going to win in the long term?

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Daria Steigman February 28, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Hi Ashvini,

Another terrific post because it’s given me lots of food for thought. Putting aside the Facebook vs. Google issue, I think you touched on a critical challenge for Google moving forward when you stated: “Google is diluting the quality of search results.”

I have The Filter Bubble sitting on my desk half-read, and it’s all about the implications of increasingly search–and it was written before Google rolled out social search. (By the way, I went into the settings and shut off social search because I don’t want to be so limited.)

There was a terrific Harvard Business Review blog post recently entitled, What Larry Page Doesn’t Understand (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/01/what_larry_page_doesnt_underst.html), which deals as much with the perception of incursions on individual privacy as the reality –and goes to what Aswani raised in his comment. It’s worth a read.

Reply

Ashvini Kumar Saxena March 2, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Hey Daria,
Thanks for your comment .
Yes, I have read that article and frankly the conclusion of the article was expected but still shocking. People’s information getting shared without them having any control is just close to “evil”.
I read somewhere that a person worked very hard to get organic results for his business. But his results got muddled by introduction of social factors where he could not do that well. It is indeed a troubling situation. I may not really want to check out what my friends like. But I have no choice.
Already people have started talking about moving to duckduckgo.com but there will be sometime before it becomes credible search engine alternative.
The organizations need to understand that they too get old with time and lose something in the process. Look at MS, IBM. They are happy sitting on their seats that they occupied long time back.

Reply

Aswani February 25, 2012 at 10:40 am

Hi Ashvini…very well written and insightful. Before saying anything, just look at this comment -

I have been and am scared of Google since past year. They want all my info esp. my phone no. on pretext of ‘what if you lost the password of your google account?’ They even forced me to give mine on one of my gmail ids. And this new privacy policy from google which says they’ll collect more of my and my contacts’ private browsing info so as to ‘serve you better’ at google searching is horrifying.

The above comment was posted by someone for an article which had criticized Google for tricking Apple Safari to track users. I guess there are many more which have to say the same thing. I think Google has gone too far ahead with these things now. A lot mostly negative things are being written about its new privacy policy. But as per what Google says –

It will be able to do a lot more “cool things” when it combines information across products. There’s “so much more that Google can do to help you” if you share your information with them.

Now, you can just make out from the two different perspectives. No evil as what Google is all about. Maybe they are working out on some great ideas for which they require us to compromise with our privacy. And sadly, there isn’t anything like opt out. Either you agree or your leave which is quite harsh in my opinion.

As a whole, I think Google finally will make people to accept his new privacy policy as there isn’t any way out. With millions of people becoming used to Google’s product and services, it looks all in favor of the mighty G…!

As far as competition with facebook is concerned, Google+ is not even close to the same. The initial response to Google+ was incredible but things have slowed down all of a sudden. Traffic to Google+ has been dropping since it was launched. Google has been trying all sorts of things to increase user engagement with its Google+. The best thing it had done so far is to integrate Google+ with all of its available services. It is surely going to help it in the long run.

You have also pointed about Google+ being a copycat. Yes…it has copied most of the things from social giant, Facebook. But now, I am seeing this copy business from both sides. Plus the search results which have degraded as per what you have said, I think it could be because of various reasons…mostly related to Google’s own search algorithm. Hopefully….Google should work on these things seriously to make it more favorable for its users in the end. Let’s see..!

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Aswani February 25, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Ashvini…I would like to add one more thing to what I have written earlier. Recent findings have shown that Pinterest Drives More Traffic Than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn Combined. More here – http://mashable.com/2012/02/01/pinterest-traffic-study/

So, the battle continues…!

Reply

Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Hey Aswani,

Maybe just maybe we are seeing birth of a new social era or a subsegment in social network space. Thanks for the heads up :)

Reply

Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Hey Aswani,

That is one heck of a comment. I am now feeling that I left quite a bit of analysis in my post. Your perspective is great because you have been a blogger from quite a time now .
I feel that not many products have won only on the basis of features. There are plenty of products that could not stand against the leader because they were lacking in something(not the product features).
You have provided excellent thoughts on the tussle that is going on between two giants and how sometimes users are getting hurt in the process. Nothing more I can add :).

Reply

Sonia February 24, 2012 at 10:07 am

Good question, but Google might come up and bit them in the rear. Privacy online is important when it comes to my accounts and if you can find information about me online it’s because it’s information I didn’t care that you found. Will Google continue to protect my information? That remains to be seen, so I make it a point to keep information I don’t want online, offline.

Like with any network, there will be some type of privacy invasion at some point, but at the end of the day they all want to make money. Advertisers thirsting to place products in your face, might make for easy pickings with Google in the long run. At this point, I use both, but use Facebook more because its what came first anyway.

Reply

Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Hi Sonia,

One day Google asked me to verify, if I was the twitter owner “blogaks”. They found it by comparing my names on the information they had on G+ and twitter. Now why did they do that ? If I verify, they will try to connect more pieces of information.
I have TACO installed on my browser which blocked 36000 attempts to
intrude on privacy from the time I installed it. This information is not only with Google,facebook etc. but with everyone else. Stealthily they are eroding our privacy and sharing the information about us. A look at spokeo.com reveals why privacy is a huge concern.
I think the next wave on internet would be about fights between allowing and blocking the privacy of individuals.

Thanks for your comment . See you soon at your blog :)

Reply

Adrienne February 23, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I agree with Jens on this one Ashvini. You can’t ignore Google+ if you’re building a business. It’s users are continuing to grow so although I don’t like that they are becoming like Facebook with their privacy issues now, in my eyes at least, they’ve still got a lot of catching up to do.

I don’t really see them as being the same type of network so I’m not really sure a competition is the correct way to look at them. But I guess only time will tell. It’s going to be interesting throughout the year, that’s for sure.

~Adrienne

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 27, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Hey Adrienne,

Sure Google cannot be ignored :). I agree.
The important thing is to see that we are the ones who are going to lose a lot of privacy now that everyone has upped the stake. Google has dropped its privacy control because probably it wants to make more money for investors( which is not a bad thing ). They provide us free stuff so that we share our information. We can’t let go of them because there is no service comparable to them.

Let us see how things go from here . Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it . Have a great day :)

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Ash February 23, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I agree whoverver is the best will win the race. As far google goes which is used most by people as search engine and gmail

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Jens P. Berget February 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm

That’s an interesting question. I am not using Google + as much as Facebook, but I can’t afford not to use it, since I’ve seen the stats, and wow. Google+ already has more than 100 million users, it’s the fastest growing network in history. Things are evolving for both Facebook and Google+, but I have no idea which one is going to win the battle, or if there needs to be a winner. When you got more than 100 million users, you’re already a winner in my mind :)

Reply

Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 27, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Hey Jens,

They would get 100m users because they are huge, trusted and they advertise like hell. But Facebook got there by what Google calls as “Organic growth”. It is hard to match for example the reach of a site like Wikipedia by any commercial measure.
Another interesting point is that we need to check how many of them are still active on FB. I have a lot of friends who are at the both locations and occasionally rant about how bad one network or other is ;) . But still they are on both. I am sure if Facebook and G+ charged money, then we would see who is on which side .
It is true, it is too early to call it the end. It is indeed going to be an interesting battle.
Thank you so much Jens for your opinion. Really appreciated.

Reply

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