Pages stalemate for Google, Facebook

Too early to determine whether Facebook or Google will trump the other in winning advertisers and corporations over to their social platforms but constant innovation needed to keep enterprise users engaged, say observers.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

It is still too early to crown either Google+ or Facebook as the social platform of choice for advertisers and corporations even as the market continues to mature and they both unveil new initiatives to win over the enterprise crowd, market watchers stated.

Google had in November released its Google+ Pages to allow organization to create enterprise, rather than individual personal, accounts to connect with users in the same way as Facebook did with its own Pages initiative three years ago.

Commenting on this development, Zaheer Nooruddin, chief marketing officer (CMO) at Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific, said there has been a healthy uptake of Google+ Pages in "just a few days" with some of the world's leading brands and companies being quick to establish their presence on the social-networking platform.

However, he believed that at this point in time, there is no clear winner and both Google and Facebook will have enough room to play in the same space and still be relevant to brands and users worldwide.

This is especially so if both keep innovating, the CMO stated. Facebook, for one had done well by taking advantage of its "unprecedented rise and hype" in recent times and has kept innovating with new features and usability options. On the other hand, Google had already added more than 100 new features to its social platform and is "superior" in that Google+ is integrated into every other Google service in the long run, he added.

For instance, Google quickly indexes all content posted on a brand's Google+ Page into its search engine, so this is good news for companies looking to get better search results for their content, Nooruddin said.

"Thanks to Google+, the digital experience for brands just got more intuitive and smarter," he said.

Facebook's appealing maturity
That said, the CMO pointed out that Facebook is a mature, established social networking site and, though its subscriber growth has tapered off, it is still growing organically as Internet penetration grows globally.

Brands have already learnt how to best utilize Facebook Pages to target the over 800 million subscribers, and its audience base is bigger than Google+'s 40 million, he added.

Google+, however, is still a "nascent" social network and companies looking for "action" might be disappointed as they need to make sense of how to use the platform, what the opportunities are and what audiences they can target, the executive stated.

Calvin Siew, co-director at Omnifluence, a Singapore-based social media consultancy firm, agreed that it is difficult to tell which service provider will triumph ultimately.

That said, he reckoned that it will take a lot for Google to get companies that have invested a lot of money in Facebook to switch over to its service.

Scott Monty, social media head of Ford Motor, which has a presence on both platforms, noted that Facebook Pages has been in existence for three years and had the chance to evolve and develop new and different ways for brands to reach a wider audience, especially through ads and sponsored stories.

He added that development of its Google+ Page is still in its early stages. "The service just went live and is still devoid of many features that brands hope are possible to fully differentiate business pages from personal profiles," he noted in his e-mail.

Monty also pointed out that Google+'s Circles function, which allows users to place different friends in various social groups, has to be done manually and this will be unsustainable should a brand have "tens or hundreds or thousands of followers".

This is why Siew advised brands in Asia to hold off on getting onto Google+. They should wait until they have enough resources internally, or for Google to introduce a better application programming interface, before investing in the platform, he suggested.

One Google employee had earlier criticized the company's efforts in developing Google+, calling it a "knee-jerk reaction" and "a study in short-term thinking", according to a ZDNet Asia report. Engineer Steve Yegge stated in his blog post in October that the Web giant does not understand how to build on the success of its product--the search engine--and develop a platform for developers to come onboard and create third-party apps.

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