Why Google should give up on social

Why Google should give up on social

Summary: Google launches the Google +1 button in order to participate in the social media landscape, but are they wasting their time?

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It's clear that Zuckerberg sits on top of something that other leading companies want and they want it bad. After all, who wouldn't want to get a piece of an almost billion person pie that is superbly ripe for monetized business and contextual marketing?

Last year, Steve Jobs tried his hand getting into the social/sharing game by infusing Ping into the iTunes offering. Jobs and Zuckerberg tried to get cozy over dinner early on but after eighteen months of trying to strike a technology partnership, it fizzled. Apple claimed that Facebook insisted on "onerous terms that we could not agree to" so they launched Ping without a Facebook tie-in. The Facebook/Apple relationship was further strained when Apple attempted to install Facebook's public "Connect" login interface without inking a deal with Facebook first, so Facebook blocked them. After Ping's launch, it never really took off. Why? Well, for a couple reasons. First off, we were already sharing music in a more open environment with sites like Blip.fm, which of course plugged right on into our Facebook and Twitter accounts no problem. Second, no one cares about Ping. Social media is based on a premise that goes against everything Apple's business is about - sharing and openness. Why would the social media population adopt a social effort by a company that is already known for putting guard rails on everything in their ecosystem so that you do everything you do online but only on Apple's terms?

Apple isn't the only frustrated behemoth.

Google tries again with Google +1.

With the latest push of Google +1, Google's own version of a "Like" button and their third attempt (remember Buzz and Orkut?)at riding the social media wave (pun intended), it's clear that Google is still an engineering-centric company in their approach. They're known for having some of the most intelligent brains behind what they do but their philosophy has always been "algorithm is king." This is why Google is amazing at search. Algorithms are in their DNA. The problem they face with social network customers is that while Facebook's backend might run on algorithms, its customers and the social media culture don't.

Here's why I think Google's social efforts are gonna matter about as much Apple's Ping did in social media:

1. The people have chosen their platforms. The mainstream isn't interested in, nor has the time, to maintain multiple networks. Almost a billion people worldwide on are Facebook. Every new generation that comes online starts with their first email address and then signs up for Facebook. It was one of the highest priorities for my teenagers to get an account and they pushed me every month until they were 13 when I could legally cave. Just like the Starbucks appeal with a bazillion locations always packed with people looking for the same coffee experience over and over, people use Facebook so much that it has essentially defined what the social network experience should be.

2. People don't want multiple "Like" buttons. If Google was really smart, they would've partnered with Facebook to allow Facebook's own Like buttons to be part of Google search results instead of using their own. I think it actually would've worked out amazingly for both Facebook and Google. It could've been seamless AND familiar for content consumers and would have resulted in much more overlap traffic-wise for Google. Facebook is currently bedding with Microsoft/Bing though for their "web results" within their search results template so maybe the Google/Facebook love fest wasn't possible to begin with. Honestly, I never click on Like-esque buttons that aren't Facebook because the result of that action doesn't go anywhere since all of my friends, family and business networking constituents are all on Facebook! If I "Like" a blog post on the Disqus network for instance, using their proprietary "Like" tab, no one but Disqus and those on the Disqus network really see what it is I liked unless I follow through with the two additional steps during the "Would you like to share" process in their widget to publish to Facebook or Twitter, hence my point.

3. Stick with what you know. Successful companies should avoid getting into online spaces that others already clearly own and are better at. Apple makes premium consumer technology products that work amazingly and integrate with our personal lives better than almost any other. Google is the master at search, having hired the world's top engineers and data/behavioral scientists. Apple and Google should just stick to those and they'll be fine.

Apple and Microsoft meet the personal computing needs of the people. Google and Bing meet the search needs of the people. Facebook and Twitter meet the online social needs of the people.

Let's keep it that way.

Also check out...

The official Google +1 video on YouTube

Topics: Apple, Google, Networking, Social Enterprise

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60 comments
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  • RE: Why Google should give up on social

    +1 for the author giving up writing before Google gives up on social.<br><br>I bet you wrote the same article 5 years ago Facebook to give up and leave myspace alone.
    tatiGmail
    • RE: Why Google should give up on social

      @tatiGmail Actually, I was not a fan of MySpace and didn't use it.
      Rich Harris
      • RE: Why Google should give up on social

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      • RE: Why Google should give up on social

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      • RE: Why Google should give up on social

        @Rich Harris

        Google had one failed attempt at orkut. This time its not going to be any different.

        Also people would be timid to put all data in one place

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    • RE: Why Google should give up on social

      @tatiGmail

      That's what I was thinking. If there is a reason that Google should think twice about investing a lot in a Social Networking site, it's that they seem to be very "fad driven" and once they are the norm, people start moving away from them to the next big thing.
      sullivanjc
  • RE: Why Google should give up on social

    Yes, this is a horrible article.

    Social is mostly a fad. People go where things are "neat" and "fun" and "easy."

    Facebook changes their picture viewer every month... lots of people are fed up with that crap.

    Also, with Facebook, you don't own your own contacts and pictures. Go ahead and try to export them. LOL

    MORE companies need to get in on Social. Friendster thought it was invincible, and so did MySpace. Facebook is just another social networking site. There is nothing special about it.
    Droid101
    • RE: Why Google should give up on social

      @Droid101 - On the flip side of that argument, with Google, you don't own your personal email, any documents stored on Google docs, or your calendars. While you can export/download that stuff from their suite, they still have access to it. At least Facebook isn't reading my email. :-)

      In all seriousness though, I love all of Google's collab offering and their email solution which is why I've been using it for years. I just think it's a waste of time of for them to re-invent the wheel and then try and gain marketshare from it.
      Rich Harris
      • RE: Why Google should give up on social

        @Rich Harris facebook keeps a record of chat. How about that?
        MenaRefaat
      • RE: Why Google should give up on social

        @Rich Harris google will clearly be double on the potential customer stalking as you jokingly suggest. Then hey presto more targeted marketing and a change in the way sites get ranked on search engines.
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  • RE: Why Google should give up on social

    +1 I agree terrible article, let's not innovate because someone else got there first, let's all drive model t fords!
    APACloud
    • RE: Why Google should give up on social

      @CIOinOz - This post isn't about an aversion to innovation, but more about re-invention for the sake of trying to "catch up". :-) Creating your own version of something that essentially does the same thing as the original version is not innovation.
      Rich Harris
      • Rich

        @Rich Harris
        I see the point you are trying to make. I feel you should consider these to views. First, even if we assume that Google+ "essentially does the same thing" as Facebook, should that be enough to deter Google from trying to serve itself a slice of the pie? After all Google unlike the services you mentioned that have tried and failed has an upper hand in that it already has user database subscribed to its service, namely by way of Gmail, which is something the other services did not have in place. Gmail is its own form is already a social medium, to the point that a vast majority of people don't use AIM to chat any more. They use Google chat or they other use AIM through Google their chat so that they are still using Google's services. Google+ seems more of an extension to Gmail users which will additional ways of communication online. Also, lest not forget Google Documents? How many students don't use that service already to edit papers online? Second, when you say Google +"does the same thing" we have to ask ourselves, to what extent and in what manner is it the "same thing"? I believe Googles approach is quite different even if it is"essentially" just duplicating a social platform. Google is presenting it in a different way with distinct features and qualities. This may appeal to people, I for one happen to like what I hear so far. Will I use it? maybe not, but thats not to say others will. One last thing to consider...Android. The world fastest growing and leading phone OS in the Market. My guess is that Google is going to use Android phones as a surfboard for the Google+ riders. Just to make it clear, I don't care about so called Tech wars between Google and Facebook. There two business interested in production and capital. I just hope that this just give the consumers more options by creating better competition for our money.
        philos454
      • RE: Why Google should give up on social

        @Rich Harris @Rich Harris <br>I see the point you are trying to make. I feel you should consider these to views. First, even if we assume that Google+ "essentially does the same thing" as Facebook, should that be enough to deter Google from trying to serve itself a slice of the pie? After all Google unlike the services you mentioned that have tried and failed has an upper hand in that it already has user database subscribed to its service, namely by way of Gmail, which is something the other services did not have in place. Gmail is its own form is already a social medium, to the point that a vast majority of people don't use AIM to chat any more. They use Google chat or they other use AIM through Google their chat so that they are still using Google's services. Google+ seems more of an extension to Gmail users which will additional ways of communication online. Also, lest not forget Google Documents? How many students don't use that service already to edit papers online? Second, when you say Google +"does the same thing" we have to ask ourselves, to what extent and in what manner is it the "same thing"? I believe Googles approach is quite different even if it is"essentially" just duplicating a social platform. Google is presenting it in a different way with distinct features and qualities. This may appeal to people, I for one happen to like what I hear so far. Will I use it? maybe not, but thats not to say others will. One last thing to consider...Android. The world fastest growing and leading phone OS in the Market. My guess is that Google is going to use Android phones as a surfboard for the Google+ riders. Just to make it clear, I don't care about so called Tech wars between Google and Facebook. There two business interested in production and capital. I just hope that this just give the consumers more options by creating better competition for our money.
        philos454
      • It is all about the CEO

        @Rich Harris <br><br>Hi Rich,<br><br>I think we need to hear opinions and voices from both sides and you are more than welcome to air a view from the other side. It has been 5 hours I have been using Google + and despite my nags and complaints about Google's efficiency or interest in maintaining and improving their products after people start using them, I have to say that they excel in one thing that Facebook will never excel: transparency and freedom to control my digital life.<br><br>Throughout the few years of existence of this sharing network it has become clear that Facebook is a dysfunctional platform that doesn't miss an opportunity to push the boundaries with regards to what they can take back from people using their service, many times without warning. <br><br>The innovation is not as much in the platform but in the mentality of what "social" really is. A mentality that Zuckerberg has no understanding of if you consider the whole background story of how TheFacebook.com came to be and how Facebook.com now goes. Zuckerberg made "social" as he sees it fit for himself and the venture capital that funded him. Facebook is Facemash in its deep intimate core and philosophy.<br><br>Don't take me wrong, Facebook has added many positive things to many people's lives: the opportunity to find people that otherwise would be hard to reconnect is the most useful feature. I for one met my best friends over Facebook. Nevertheless whilst one acknowledges the good things Facebook has brought with its existence, one can not feel relaxed with Facebook, there is a price to pay and it is never clear what that might be in the next update, but the most unforgivable price tag Facebook has slapped on us as members has been to decide things for us. With Google I know the price I will pay is Google Ads, with Facebook just God knows.<br><br>Google+ tips the balance of power and the most exciting thing about it is that as users, we feel empowered again, we feel we have a good choice to go with even at this very field trial stage. Google+ has still a long way to go but the sense of taking control of my digital life is amazingly priceless.<br><br>All the best,<br><br>Luis
        Luis Morais
      • RE: Why Google should give up on social

        @Luis Morais - Thanks for the comments. My only caveat is that Google still gets to read everyone's personal email, see how they collaborate with everyone, their documents, their calendars, etc. - So to me, privacy/security is not a good argument for which platform is *better*...which to me isn't really an issue. I just think both Facebook and Google serve different purposes.

        -Rich
        Rich Harris
      • RE: Why Google should give up on social

        @Rich Harris

        I think you're confused about the way gmail works. An automated scanner, which also handles things like junk email, generates the relevant tags which are used to find the ads. No staff reads your email/documents. They aren't giving your information away.

        http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=6603
        Queuecumber
      • RE: Why Google should give up on social

        @Rich Harris reinventing the wheel was something facebook did in the first place.
        MenaRefaat