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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