Facebook Vs Google – Its a war out there

Facebook Vs Google - Advantage Facebook - analysis

In my last post I talked about the fact that Google has a 10X threat on its hands in the Facebook vs Google- Only the paranoid survive.

In war, an entrenched enemy defends itself well

In a war, usually, a defender is well entrenched while an attacker is most likely to launch a frontal attack. In the olden days when use of airforce was not very common, forts and trenches were used to protect the defending force from the advancing. Times have changed but the strategy of warfare has not changed that much. The case in the point is Facebook vs Google war. Though many would not prefer to call it a war but just let me show you how it is a war. [caption id="attachment_2143" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Facebook vs Google - which is the one?"][/caption]

It is a war

Google is an entrenched defender. It has been ruling over the internet world for years now. Its main focus is on providing search results to its end user. Google has built a solid reputation around it. The territory that it occupies just as an army does is the ad space that generates revenue , when users click on its advertisement.

Where is the human touch?

In a few years, in comes the Facebook, a nimble small guerrilla force. Facebook exploits Google's weakness. Google does not have a  human touch. Google works by deploying a robot or code that crawls all over the internet. It then indexes these pages on its own server. Based on certain rules, it selects the proper answer to question that you type in your search box. There is a small problem with this model even though it is till now the best way to search on internet. If you like certain link , you cannot promote it to Google's top page because Google does not work that way. If you want to share it with your friend you probably will have to email her to check that link. Facebook brought in that human touch. You could write something on your blog and promote it to your friends and get traffic immediately. The more friends you have more your content gets popular. This is more favorable to a marketing company because it is a push model than waiting it to be searched( which is a pull model) .  The rise of the Facebook can be primarily attributed to the fact that a human would like to deal with human rather than a faceless robot. The victory in the traffic territory can be understood in this context.

So where is Facebook winning ?

Facebook attacked the  weakest point of Google. Google unfortunately despite a well respected technology company has not been able to catch on social network due to two inherent weaknesses which are not technological 1. Google is still perceived as search engine company (perception problem) 2. It still relies on a bot to get its result( no human interaction).

Google is trying to get socially relevant - A mistake

Although Google has tried one trick to make it more social media relevant ( which is a mistake, in my opinion. More on that later). It has added a 'like' button to each of its button for users to recommend.  

Privacy - Facebook has it(At least some )

No one shares private thoughts on Google or write it on blogs so that it can be indexed and fed for world's consumption. If I dislike something, I would keep it to me or to my friends in a close circle. I would never allow everyone to read what I like and dislike. Google unfortunately does not provide any such privacy. You may mark a page not to be indexed but it is still open to world,( if it is not password protected ). Also it does not provide a way to share thoughts with everyone that I share my feelings with. Facebook does not allow indexing to happen (on its private pages ) thus protecting the information ( which might be unpalatable ) sometimes from prying eyes. Here Facebook wins because of the fact that it provides privacy( to a certain extent) for your thoughts. Privacy is going to be an important issue in future when more of our information goes online and Google needs something to work on it.

Advertisement, the latest and the most important battleground

The new battleground is ad revenue. Till now the guerrilla Facebook was attacking on Google outposts where Google had left a lot of doors open. However ad revenue is mainstay of Google, like a mother ship. Google uses a complex algorithm to provide the ad displays on various sites in the world. Users visiting sites click on the ad and thus Google makes money from the clicks.

Facebook has got 500M captive users

Facebook does not deliver ads on any other site but on its own. However a strong base of 500M + users make sure that these ads are viewed and clicked.

Facebook ads are easier to setup

It is much easier to set up a Facebook ad than using Google adwords. There is a learning curve before someone can start using adwords while using Facebook ads is as easy as just signing up.

Facebook has more information about user interests- effective trageting

With a wealth of private information available to Facebook, it is much easy to mine and use for advertising. Google cannot ever imagine to get hand on such an information.

Google has left too many doors open

So by now you can imagine, what Google is up against, a guer rilla Facebook to which it has left open too many doors and thus has allowed to become a major force.

Google's wrong response

The response of Google has been familiar. Faced with the onslaught of Facebook, Google has tried some tricks up it sleeve. Many of them are however not that useful in fighting the Facebook threat. It has added a 'Like' button to its search result undermining its own robot's results. What it means that now we are confused. Next time when we see a result would it because of like or because of page optimization Google wants us to do? It is not a very good move for its publishers and advertisers because it creates confusion in their minds about the direction it is taking. So Google is trying to become like Facebook in a quest to fight it. Next it is trying to revive its old products like Buzz and Orkut which have not really caught user attention. That means now Google is trying to prepare a product like Facebook to counter it. To me it is a bad strategy because when I ( or anyone ) think of social media, the first thing that comes to mind is Facebook and not Orkut. Google has a great perception problem here. It is more known by being a search engine giant with a great email service. World can never look Google as social media service.

The wheel has come a full circle.

Google won over Microsoft on the internet space because Microsoft concentrated on desktop while totally neglecting fast growing internet . Microsoft has never been able to catch Google on internet despite having good products like Windows live/ Bing. Microsoft probably is not even trying to be in social space. Google is now facing the same fate as MS in those days. It risks its territory reduced because of Facebook threat. It is already under threat from multiple ad networks ( though they are farway from getting Google's scale, which is a good news).

So does Google have good strategy?

Yes, in my opinion. The recent Panda update is a case in the point. By attacking its own weakness( bad search result) and working on it , Google has gained leaps and bound in reputation. By delivering more accurate search results, I think Google has managed to address a strong captive market of its, which is not going to go away.

Strengths that Google can leverage to keep Facebook away from the lion's share of Ad revenues.

If you were a king of an empire and you were informed of an impending attack , what would you do?
  1. You would first strengthen your own defenses.
  2. For e.g. you would find out vulnerable points in your fort where enemy is most likely to attack and reinforce them as fast as possible.
  3. You would then recruit more army
  4. You would also look out for enemy's army weak points and would create weapons strategy to exploit them .
  5. You would meet more allies and ask for their support in return for yours in more opportune time.
  6. You would also develop newer weapons so as to combat the ever growing threat.
Google has immense advantages still available to it because it is the ruler of an empire and a defender. Let us take a look at some of its strengths
  1. It has a strong user base of already existing customers and publishers
  2. It has a technological edge that is unmatched
  3. It has a solid reputation that does work ethically and in a logical manner
  4. It is a well respected brand .
  5. It dominates the internet search market
  6. It has added Android operating system to dominate the growing mobile market and is doing it really well
  7. Frankly, Google still commands much much more respect than any of the other internet companies. ( See the poll, Google ranks far ahead of facebook ).
To fortify its defenses, Google has been updating its search engine often to get more better results for its end users. Panda update is a case in the point, where till now spam sites which rode on the top because of misleading tactics are now biting the dust. Google has been  been constantly changing its user interfaces and getting into areas that were probably neglected sometimes ago.

Neglecting Orkut is a mistake

In my opinion, Google is neglecting Orkut. I am very sure there are plenty of people like me who would prefer the simplicity of Orkut over Facebook. However a lack of freshness in Orkut for a long time is working against Orkut. In a war, the defender just needs to stay one step ahead of the attacker. Orkut would have become a weapon against Facebook and stemmed its rise. But sadly, Google lost that ground and once you lose it getting it back is very difficult because you are now an attacker and your enemy the defender. It will keep building trenches  to protect itself while you wonder how to attack and reclaim your territory.

What are the wrongs of Facebook that Google can exploit?

Facebook is making far too many mistakes. In my opinion it has become complacent in area such as privacy and spam, which is probably the most important to an end user. The privacy issues at Facebook are inspiring  tonnes of articles on how Facebook is invading the privacy of the its user. Even though I said that Facebook has probably more advantage with  privacy than Google because of its business model it is negating the advantage. Read here for such an article on privacy crisis. Too many privacy issues and inept handling by Facebook is really playing havoc with Facebook's brand image. People are scared to share personal information on Facebook  with friends because of the privacy concern. This is a direct threat to Facebook's main business ( of attracting more users to its fold).

How Google handled such an issue previously

Even though same concerns came up when Google started sifting through the emails in the Gmail service to deliver the ads, I think Google handled it pretty well. But see how Google handled it
Ad targeting in Gmail is fully automated, and no humans read your email in order to target advertisements or related information. This type of automated scanning is how many email services, not just Gmail, provide features like spam filtering and spell checking. Ads are selected for relevance and served by Google computers using the same contextual advertising technology that powers Google's AdSense program.
Facebook has been constantly attacked by malwares, spams and their threats are growing everyday. Unless Facebook really correct this issue , I believe a new product "TightBook" with water tight privacy features may replace "Facebook". Already  "Path" with its tighter policy controls and limited number of friends is proving a good Facebook rival. Maybe its time for Google to buy Path and develop this as weapon against Facebook. In Summary here is how I think, Google can win over Facebook.
  • Improve search results constantly
  • Develop better relationships with Publishers and Customers alike
  • Develop new products to gain more market of ad revenue
  • Reduce complexity of its products and make it more user friendly
  • Buy or create a program similar to Facebook with a "Different brand name" ( not Google) or under a different company ( cannibalize).
  • Keep working on improving privacy levels ( hit Facebook at its soft spot)
I would love to know your opinion on this issue. Please vote below /comment to provide your opinion


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