As a social media consultant for several area businesses, including my own place of employment, it’s my responsibility to stay on top of the hottest trends in social media. This last week, everyone in the office was abuzz about Google+. Are you on it? Should we be? What’s going to happen to Facebook? I wish this type of concern occurred when I present new ways of utilizing the social tools we ARE on…
Regardless, Google+ has 100 times the buzz of, say, Google Buzz (pun intended). It’s safe to say this may be the most legitimate social project Google has launched yet. However, the question still remains: can Google+ cross the barrier that no Google-backed social project has come close to until now? Some say yes, some say no; I say what’s the difference? Here’s why:
Google+ is most definitely the cool kid on the block right now: 10 million in less than a month, pretty impressive. However, thanks to Facebook and all that it has accomplished since 2004, 10 million isn’t that impressive anymore, especially when you factor in the financial pull Google has vs. Facebook at that point in its infancy. The question now is can Google+ sustain this momentum? Mashable’s Ben Parr would argue no, stating that unlike services such as Twitter (which utilized celebrity appeal to gain popularity) Google+ hasn’t been tested and if it were in the near future it’s doubtful they have amassed enough of a following to sustain. The cartoon in that article is an awesome representation of Google+: a guy walking into a new nightclub, only to find nobody inside.
But you can’t rule out the power of Google, or its pocketbook. Its team of uber-brainiacs and financial power could easily repair any injury its baby might receive at this point. JCPenney can vouch for Google’s wrath: when they got word of the retail giant possibly using the ‘black hat’ technique to increase it’s SEO, Google shut down any chance of someone finding JCP through a search engine faster than Geico switches ad campaigns. Erik Qualman’s Socialnomics will tell you only 5% of people using search engines go past the second page of results. JCP got pushed back to page 6 on many searches: No Man’s Land. Google doesn’t mess around, and takes whatever they choose to involve themselves in very seriously. Consider that before you dismiss Google from any conversation.
So what’s a search engine giant doing throwing itself into the ever-aggressive ring of social media? Simple: Google has long viewed social media sites a threat, it’s what is forcing them to evolve. More and more people are relying on their social friends for information and less on whatever pops up in search engine sites. That’s why they own YouTube and why they have long-viewed Facebook as Public Enemy #1 (Facebook’s partnership with Bing adds a bit of insult to injury as well…the enemy of my enemy…you get it).
Facebook has a lot going for it: new Skype-integrated video chat, 750 million users, billions in revenue and rumors of a music service in the near future. Not to mention one glaring bonus: Facebook has no IPO…yet. A lot has gone into Facebook; it’s virtually the Roman Empire of social media. Yet at it’s current pace, the thing everyone seems to be talking about is ‘when will Facebook take the Myspace plunge?’ Many experts are pointing to the moment they go public, but who honestly knows?
Here’s the reality. Facebook has worked its way to the highly coveted top of social media, and Google wants in. This isn’t Google’s first attempt, nor is it Facebook’s first time playing defense. Most likely we’ll be witness to these two going at each other until Facebook incorporates a 3D geo-location first-person shooter social game that unites all your friends against those that won’t stop poking you with GagaVille invites, thus ending any attempt Google+ x20 has at defeating it. What both have difficulty realizing is that the true threat lies within us. These sites can spend all the effort in the world trying to create the best social media site possible, but in the end it has to be what we want it to be. Right now Google+ is awesome because it’s like starting Facebook all over again. Yet in the end, it’s like starting Facebook….all….over…again. We lose sight sometimes in the thick of things: social media is for us, and it’s supposed to be fun. If you spend all this time worrying which one is going to beat the other, you’re missing out on what unique opportunities each one offers.
So who wins: Google, or Facebook? Right now it’s neither. The answer has been what it always will be (until we reach the point of all our personal information flooding into public domain…but that’s another story): we are the winners. Whether it’s a ‘Circles’ app, or a new way to ‘Video Chat’, these sites are catering to you, which is something you should definitely ‘Like’.