Why Google+ Doesn't Stand a Chance Against Facebook

tommyismyname
Tommy Walker Online marketing Strategist, tommy.ismy.name

Posted on July 1st 2011

Why Google+ doesn't stand a chance against Facebook
So by now, you've likely heard Google+ is coming to an internet near you.

You may have taken a look at the demo, or gotten an early invitation, you might think this could usher in the next generation of social networking.

And you might be right.

I'll admit, I'm anxious to see if Google's actually gotten it right this time.

Google will be the first to introduce us to Web 3.0

The next generation of social networking is about to happen, no doubt about it.

Signs of Web 3.0 are clear, if you know what to look for.

Sites like Neflix and Pandora use your existing preferences to suggest new movies and music tailored to you. Facebook uses your likes and interests to target ads.

Web 3.o's core concept is that all of your data is collected and used to deliver results tailored to you. 

Tell Sparks what you’re into and it will send you stuff it thinks you’ll like, so when you’re free, there’s always something cool to watch, read, or share.

Sounds cool right, never be bored because you’ll always have something interesting coming your way…

Here’s why my money is on Facebook.

Facebook is a predator.

In 7 years Facebook has adopted many of the web’s most social technologies, has become largest information sharing hub, and with

the “like” button and open graph protocol worked it’s way into the backbone of the internet.

Every feature Google+ touts, Facebook has likely been developing for much longer than we realize.

They’re just waiting for the right moment to pounce.

Google+ Features and how Facebook will do it better.

Google+ descriptions by Mashable , then look at some of the things Facebook has been doing.

Then you decide who's going to do it better in the long run.

Google+ Sparks:


What Mashable says:

To spur sharing, Google has added a recommendation engine for finding interesting content. The feature, Google+ Sparks, is a collection of articles, videos, photos and other content grouped by interest. For example, the “Movies” spark will have a listing of recent and relevant content for that topic.

The system is algorithmic — it relies on information from other Google products (e.g. Google Search) as well as what is being shared via Google+ and through +1 buttons.

The problem: Just because I like independent movies doesn't mean I'm into every single independent movie known to man. Sparks is really Google Alerts set up in a dashboard that gives more weight to data that's gotten a +1 and been retweeted.

But+1 is still too new. Google added it to every search result to get more "+1"s on content, but that's like sending out a mass mailer, and why would you "+1" something you haven't read? Using ReTweets (or even my friends ReTweets) as a signal is also not useful. Just because my friend ReTweeted a link does not mean I'm going to be interested in it.

How Facebook will do it better:

Facebook has been integrated with Bing in some way for over two years. Facebook also knows what you "like" on its platform and on various websites throughout the web.

By combining Bing's search algorithm with an exhaustive collection of "likes" from over 750 million users, data won't just ranked algorithmically-  it will have a real human element.

Facebook and Bing together will create the first truly relevant "social search" engine.  Your profile data will be cross-referenced with the "like" data with other people's Facebook profiles. As strangers with similar interests to you "like" content across the web, Bing's algorithm will use that "like" as a signal that will be interested in that content as well. The more interests you have in common, the stronger the signal.

Google+ Circles:

What Mashable says:

Circles is well-implemented. It’s far easier than creating a Twitter List or a Facebook Friend List. The drag-and-drop functionality is a welcome addition, and the cute animations that appear when you perform actions give the product personality. That doesn’t necessarily mean users will take the time to create friend groups.

The problem: Exactly what Mashable says, even though it's cute doesn't mean it's going to make people want to make yet another group. From what it looks like, much of the Google+ experience hinges on Circles+, and while they're giving incentive with cute animations, if people don't go through the process of organizing their contacts again, the entire Google+ experience could fall flat on it's face.

How Facebook will do it better:

Facebook already has its existing groups and lists feature. By using some smart automation they could be a million times better.

All it would take for Facebook to make groups compelling is to match you and your friends  similar interests, and automatically create groups for the different categories of interests you have in common.

For example: How many people on your friends list have you lost touch with, but you know you're into a lot of the same movies?

Imagine Facebook did the hard work of creating a group and inviting people on your friends list with similar movie interests. Would you find yourself connecting with people you haven't talked to in a while and having stimulating conversations about something you love again?

Groups could be categorized by movies, television shows, musical interests, marital status, has children (and age of children) etc. Facebook is equipped for functionality like this with the introduction of broad category targeting on the ad platform.

Using the technology that delivers instant advertising, it would also be possible to create your update and just before you press enter Facebook  recommends which group to post to, taking the pain out of navigating different groups just to say something interesting.

Google+ Huddle:

What Mashable says:

Huddle is basically a group-texting feature for the Circles you create. It makes sense as a product, but it isn’t terribly exciting. I’m going to stick with GroupMe for now.

The problem: Mashable said it right, it isn't horribly exciting. That group chat for a social network being mobile is kind of neat, without additional features... I'm not sure it would be enough to encourage people to jump ship from their current group chat platform.

How Facebook will do it better:

A few months back Facebook acquired group messaging platform Beluga and it's talent, which happen to be 3 Ex-Googlers.

Beluga was described byMG Siegler of Techcrunch as " a simple, elegant, and fast group messaging service... that works across several different platforms: iPhone, Android, mobile web, regular web, and text message...It’s almost as if Beluga is like Facebook Messages plus Groups."

Notable features of the Beluga App

  • Pods (groups of friends you specify) you share with are totally private.
  • Everyone in a Pod can watch your updates.
  • Control alert settings capability for any specific pod.
  • Share photos and location on a map with your pods
  • Ability of inviting your contacts either from your email or mobile device
  • Add friends to a pod at any moment to instantly loop them into the conversation
  • The application is not tied to specific device, you can access pods from anywhere using any mobile device or computer with a web browser.

Imagine your Movies Group arranges a movie night.

On the night of the event, the host "checks in" through Facebook Places and members who have Rsvp'd are notified and can get directions from their current location. While on route, the host would send trivia questions from their computer, and the first to answer with their mobile device would win a prize.

Google+ Instant Uploads

What Mashable Says:

Instant photo uploads is a cool idea, but we worry about auto-uploading all of our photos for privacy reasons. We can see some users not being happy about auto-uploads, even if the albums they’re uploaded to are private. This could potentially create a lot of “garbage.”

The problem: Aside from the "garbage" and privacy concerns, auto-uploading could eat into my phone's data plan. If you shoot a lot of photos with your phone, you could inadvertently end up spending more on your data plan than you intended.

As an example here's what AT&T's data plans look like:

I hope Google+ does not keep this as an "always on" feature.

(Update: No worries here, instant upload only works when you're connected to WiFi, and it's actually a pretty cool feature)

How Facebook will do it better:

Simply put, they won't do anything.

If they do, they would speed the existing process up by allowing mobile users to upload photos with fewer "clicks"

Google+ Hangouts

What Mashable says:

Hangouts is one of the more innovative concepts of Google+, and we think it’s a cool approach to getting users to accept group video chat. The camera switching feature (it changes who’s on camera based on who’s talking) is far superior to having multiple video feeds open at the same time. That said, it will require users checking their Google+ streams every day for potential chats to join. If Google+ gains traction, Hangouts will be a killer feature.

The problem is: Not really any problems here actually. This feature is easily the coolest feature of Google+. Just because it's cool doesn't mean everyone will love it though, there are still plenty who refuse to use a picture of their face as an avatar, but overall that will likely not hurt the adoption rate of this feature.

How Facebook will do it better:

 Facebook has been integrated with Skype since October 2010, and it keeps getting better. If you're a Skype user, you can access Facebook directly through the software.

This primarily allows you to place calls to friends cellphones from the News Feed and chat with other Skype users. You can  as "like" and comment on friends status updates, chat via instant messager, and sync friends phone numbers to your contacts list without having to go to their profile.

Buying Skype is out of the question for Facebook, as Microsoft bought it for 8.5 billion dollars in May 2011. But it's also no secret that Facebook and Microsoft consider Google a common enemy. Is it likely Microsoft bought Skype to hold on to until Facebook goes public?

Even if that's not the case, with the introduction of a potential game changer like Google+ Hangouts, it's feasible Microsoft would let Facebook fully integrate Skype into it's back end. Meaning, you'd be making voice and video calls directly from Facebook.com.

Using Skype's Screenshare function you could do a virtual screening of a movie with your Movie group, and using Skype's Group Chat you'd could see how your friends react and chat about the movie.

Make no mistake about it, Facebook is a predator.

And they're still a private company. With Facebook likely to go public no later than April 2012, that gives Google+ enough time to gain just enough traction to be lured into a false sense of security.

On the day Facebook goes public, when the closing bell sounds tears through the noise of brokers and shareholders cheering loudly, and news pundits reporting the record high day, know that the ringing in your ears marks the end of an era.

When the ringing subsides, you'll see and hear everything with unparalleled fidelity, and you'll wonder "what's next?"

Do you think Facebook will continue to lead the way for social networking and have a massive impact on society?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

tommyismyname

Tommy Walker

Online marketing Strategist, tommy.ismy.name

Tommy is an Online Marketing Strategist and been doing various forms of internet marketing since 2005. His final calling came from being fired over a pair of pants.
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Comments

Posted on July 11th 2011 at 9:23AM

I don't think Facebook will come out on top exactly for that reason, the "predator" way of thinking. I think that you're forgetting to look at the real next step, the operating system... Google has just about all the tools to make a nice OS that people are locked into: OS, docs, browser, emails & social network. While FB still is just a website. Cheers

Posted on July 11th 2011 at 9:53AM

You didnt mention all those people that are getting upset and over facebook. the constantly unwanted and often security threatening changes facebook had done in the last 1-2 years, upset many people. If Myspace wouldnt try so hard to become another facebook, they probably would have gained more people back. So some friends and i are counting hours to start, well, I managed to receive an invititation and so far, I like it. Privacy seems to be privacy !

Posted on July 11th 2011 at 10:08AM

Google is being trying hard(Plus is the third time) to cut a piece for itself in the social media. beta version keeps us agnostic whether its trying to win the battle without fighting..! 

 

@shanbhagp on Twitter :P

Posted on July 11th 2011 at 1:39PM

All of your arguments are predicated on what Facebook might/could do in the future, with future roll-outs of features. You compare what is essentially not even vaporware...it's imaginationware, software features you imagine might come into existence based on what you know; these aren't even things that FB have promised (other than their rather anemic vid chat anouncement a week after G+ blows everyone away with Hangouts), they are things you have imagined based upon the technologies and developers FB has at its disposal.

You then compare this imaginationware to an actual, rolled out product, and then your analysis assumes that FB will make all of these changes and make your imaginationware their real software while, what exactly, Google just sits there with G+, not adding new features, not refining old ones...just waiting for Facebook to catch up? Why exactly would Google do that? You make a huge deal out of FB "having deals" with Skype and having OMG THREE whole ex-Googlers. Google has ALL of their devs...why are those three over at FB so important, again?

Power users use lists on FB. I have asked around and most people I asked didn't even know friends lists existed. And can I post to a friends list I have made only? No, trust me, I've tried. I can post just to a group, but the groups feature also has some real problems (like my friends being able to add me to groups...WTF is THAT about?) and I have to go to the group's page to do so, I can't do it from my FB homepage. By making Circles the core of the friend adding process in G+, your lists are built in from the beginning, and the posting system on G+ allows me to narrow down who I am talking to, stop reposts or close comments, etc...very simple features that FB still hasn't gotten a handle on.

Plus we have to address the reasons people are starting to hate FB. Game spam and all the noise that comes from it. Page spam (just because I "like" Punky Brewster doesn't mean I want the latest updates from a page determined to cash in on 80s kid nostalgia). People importing every feed in the world and spamming the stream. Sure, you can block apps, block pages, etc, but why should I have to? Why shouldn't people's goddamn Farmville stay on their own damn page and leave mine alone? Oh yeah, because the only viable business model FB has are ads and these stupid games, and so they want the spam to show up in people's streams by default to attract more players.

And then the endless UI and UX changes, apparently for the sake of changing things. I mean, how are you going to justify your job if the site just stays the same and runs reasonably well? So you have to CHANGE things constantly, adding features the users don't want, taking the ones they do want away, moving things around...just stupid changes that we have little or no control over. It's like that supermarket strategy of changing where everything is every couple of months, just when people figure out where everything is and start shopping comfortably. It turns out comfortable shoppers are in and out and don't do much impulse purchasing, but the more you keep them wandering around your store, the more frustrated and less rational they become about their purchases. It's the same with FB...they want to keep their stats up, so they keep changing things so that something that could be a "jump on, post, jump off" activity turns into 30 mins or more of hunting, experimenting, etc. So it looks like people spend huge amounts of time on FB, but how much of that time is spent just figuring out where some feature disappeared to THIS time.

And let's address the difference in company attitudes. FB says people don't know what they want, that you have to force it on them for them to realize they want it. G+ devs are on G+ asking us what we want every day, doing open Hangouts, etc. When was the last time Mark or one of the project leads had an open chat on FB asking what we want and how we want it? Oh, that's right...never. Their user bill of rights was BS, a PR maneuver to distract from the increasing security issues, and they make unilateral changes that affect the users at the dictates of Mark and the dev team all the time, something that was supposed to be off-limits.

You're right about one thing...Facebook is predatory. And predatory people AND companies are assholes. People as a whole will avoid them, and the moment there is a not-quite-so-douchy alternative people will use it. Microsoft was the big "predator" not too long ago, and people hated them for it, and many of them turned to Apple (myself included at certain points) because Apple had a different agenda going on at that time. Now that Apple is getting more and more predatory themselves, people are turning to Google and other companies. The moment Google offers a desktop OS people will be all over it, especially if it has the same minimalistic, effective, and customizable design as Chrome. Can you honestly say anyone would want such a thing from FB?

What it comes down to is that social media is a social phenomenon, and that means social cuing is a big part of it. Socially, we don't like assholes, and if we start to feel like a site/service is run by assholes, people stop wanting to use it. FB's problem isn't really technical, and it's not on the technical stage (everyone has technical flaws and issues) that they will be defeated and go the way of MySpace. It's a social problem, a problem of attitude that comes from a corporate culture that looks at and does things a certain way that the users often don't like.

I have never seen a FB page, or even a blog, dedicated to attacking Google or some change Google was implementing. Every single UI overhaul, every security issue, and every new unilateral feature change or deletion has been met on FB with protests, pages, and petitions. People have made videos about "Why You Need to Get Off Facebook" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UouP8cRYZ8&feature=player_embedded Find me one about getting off of Google? There is the post you find every now and then from SEO blackhats, spammers, sploggers, and scammers that want to get their bad entries that expose their activities out of the index, but you won't find anything where people explain why Google is inherently bad.

Essentially my argument is that your analysis is couched in techical details. No one is leaving FB because of techical issues, not really. They are leaving FB for G+ because FB's attitude towards their users sucks. They think of us as chattel, a commodity, a self-selecting market research group, and a target for advertising. Sure, they are a company and they are out to make a profit, but so is Google and somehow they don't have this attitude, and neither do a lot of other companies. People aren't going to go to G+ because it is techically better, they are going to go there because it's not Facebook, and there are a lot of people out there who really want a social network that isn't Facebook (the same way as in 2006 when they came to my college we went to FB mostly because it wasn't the horror that was MySpace).

It might not be G+, though with so many people using Google for everything else I think it will be, but it's going to be someone, and that's because FB pissed of the users by forgetting that it's the users that matter, not them.

tommyismyname
Posted on July 12th 2011 at 1:30PM

Wow! Thank you for taking the time to leave that comment. Your points are all very valid, and I'm glad you took the time to leave it. 

Honestly though, the whole Google+ vs. Facebook debate is irrelevant, because it's the beginning of web 3.0 you might not agree with this article either, but I would love to hear your thoughts on it :-)

Posted on July 12th 2011 at 9:32PM

One of my Google+ friends said something intereting today that got me really thinking. He was saying that one of things he didn't like about G+ was the lack of personal data, which is what made Facebook feel more, for lack of a better word, "personal". He said that's why Facebook is different from Twitter and that Google+, in trying essentially to combine the two, feels a bit awkward.

 

I disagree. I think Facebook has made us feel like having all of that personal information online is necessary simply by giving us the option to enter it into their system. They've pretty much pulled the wool over our eyes and made us think that all that stuff is critical. G+ is, IMO, a way to help us see through that and realize that the only really important stuff is the stuff we are sharing and talking about, that's it.

 

Am I way off the mark here?

tommyismyname
Posted on July 14th 2011 at 12:54AM

Not off the mark at all. 

What you're exploring are essentially the core philosophies between the two different philosophies of the company. 

 

Are you what you "like?" or are you what you "share?" 

 

I personally subscribe to the "like" camp, because "share" data can be misleading. 

Reason being, this article has been shared 843 times, many of which have been by people who are saying "G+ will win!" 

However from an algorythmic standpoint the title of the article is "How Facebook will crush google+" and unless google is tracking your comments on the site (which they can't do because they do not a unified comment platform *_yet_*) it's going to take into account that you've shared this article and the title favor's Facebook. 

Of course, it's Google, so they probably have a bunch of other measures that will signal your own personal sentiment, but my guess is that if it's all by what you share, there's so much more of a deep analysis needed, rather than looking at your core set of "likes and interests" that will follow you around everywhere. 

Make sense?

EricMiltsch
Posted on July 14th 2011 at 12:30AM

This article is part of the reason why I frequent SocialMediaToday.com less & less: Hyped-up, sensational & lacking facts. Someone else previously mentioned earlier - the editors are reaching way back in the closet for articles such as this. 

Very easy to see why you're such a FB fan-boy, one glance at your website explains it - your personal business is built around one platform and anything that can be seen as a threat must be terrible.

Your arguments are based on hope & speculation. Monday-morning product critics are everywhere. G+ doesn't need to be bigger than FB to be declared a winner - it comes down to creating shareholder value. 

I would challenge you to do a follow-up post on all of your points in another 90 days. It'll be a different scenario when:

  • G+ Reaches 100mm users & user experience is better defined
  • SEO benefits have been recognized
  • Google's API is open
  • The iPone app is available
  • G+ bolts on products such as blogger, picasa and others
  • Launches their business pages

I find it ironic that you have posts within G+ praising both it's functionalities and the people using their unique qualities - while even experimenting with different methods as well as stating that you're "happy you made it on too." 

So, why not embrace it like you did at one point with Facebook and see the forest for the trees.

tommyismyname
Posted on July 14th 2011 at 12:45AM

The problem is, while many of the features I'm talking about with Facebook are speculative, they are all rooted in researched facts.  

While I am doing a content series that is focusing on better engagement on Facebook, it has been planned for months. It was a matter of bad timing on my part to launch on the 1st of July. 

I'm not threatened, in fact I'm spending as much time as I can in the platform seeing how people are reacting to the "clean start" they're having, and have been more than willing to give constructive non troll feedback to the team to help make the platform better.  

More than one glance is necessary to know what I do for business, I talk about many other things, such as landing page conversion, selling your services at a higher price Ppc, personal branding and more. This post just happened to get traction as I started getting into my content series, which admittedly was poorly timed. 

I'd be happy to do a follow up post in 6 months, and I will use your examples as talking points. 

The reality is, none of this converstion really matters, because both companies are working to better filter the firehose of information that is on the web.

Regardless of who's corner you're in, what matters to me at this very point in time are where my customers are at.

As a marketer, I will go where they are. 

EricMiltsch
Posted on July 14th 2011 at 12:12PM

Yes - totally agree with the fact that, for what you do, you need to fish in the bigger pond. Look forward to seeing the follow up post; filtering the firehose is an excellent choice of words.

Thanks for the reply Tommy.

Circled you as well...

Posted on July 14th 2011 at 4:08PM

I look forward to Google+ succeeding at least enough to stick around because:

1. I'm tired of Facebook's default tone.  Seriously, how did we users create such a borning, vanilla gathering place where people share inane quotes and pictures of their pets as the majority of the content.  It's so bad it drags down your normally witty friends' material.  Time to move on and learn from that mistake.

2. I love Google products for ease of use and how they pair perfectly with...

3. My Android phone.  See point #2. 

4. Schadenfreude.  Fuck you, Facebook!

5. My grandma isn't going to bother moving to another platform, making FB the catchall for all the late adopters who are already struggling to maintain their social media savvy in an ever more intimidating online world.

 

In the end I hope both solutions flourish.  That way my Luddite extended family members and loose acquaintances can stay on Facebook and just the right amount of the rest of us can venture into the "use what we learned from past mistakes" Google+ years of social media.

There are more like me too muhuhuhhahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

A

 

Posted on July 15th 2011 at 10:30AM

Hey Tommy,

 

I think you have completely misunderstood what Google+ is about.

 

Here, take a look at this:

https://plus.google.com/photos/100238778462210489846/albums/5629087019815403777

 

Go through that album and you'll understand what G+ is really about.

tommyismyname
Posted on July 15th 2011 at 2:20PM

I like the way you think!

Tia Peterson
Posted on July 15th 2011 at 12:39PM

Hi Tommy - I think it will be awhile before Facebook goes down, but not for the reasons you suggest. For the simple reason that people are interested in convenience.

The bulk of everyone's contacts are on Facebook. Unless there is a mass exodus to Google+, much of the conversation will still be happening on Facebook. Businesses will continue to engage where the engagement is happening.

For social media pros, it's going to be really annoying and we'll have to keep up with two spots. But no one else is going to care and most of the non-bloggers and non-content marketers that I know don't even know that Google+ exists. That would be, probably, all 600+ of my friends (don't know Google+ exists). 

I bet it's the same for a lot of people. Google+ success is driven largely by content marketers who swear it's the next best thing because of "privacy" and "circles."

Posted on July 22nd 2011 at 10:18AM

"All it would take for Facebook to make groups compelling is to match you and your friends  similar interests, and automatically create groups for the different categories of interests you have in common."

...ummm yeah this would be a huge #Fail, Facebook can not group my "friends" for me

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