How Will Google+ Counter Facebook's Major Announcements? Perhaps By Celebrating
Now that Facebook's over-hyped announcements have been made, Google can rest easy knowing that the next evolution in social networking has yet to come.
While some may Like the ability say, “I just read a book” (without having to actually type those words), the majority of Facebook's announcements were, for lack of a better word, blah. Sleep-inducing, ultra-monotonous “blah” that should pave the way for another Facebook button.
But that's to be expected. This was, after all, a Mark Zuckerberg keynote. He doesn't know how to put on a show. He only knows how to bore us to death.
Right now, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) should be celebrating. Never mind the wall redesign, which has transformed the old Facebook into a timeline of lifelong developments. That will only appeal to a certain crowd. If you're trying to sell something, Facebook Timeline might very well be the site's best feature. If you value your privacy, however, and have no desire to share your baby pictures with the world (or go through the trouble of having to select who can and can't see those pictures), then the Timeline is rather useless.
That said, Facebook is still the dominant force in social networking. For better or worse, Google needs to keep evolving. With more than 800 million users and more than 500 million users in one day, Facebook is the unquestionable king.
If Google+ hopes to stay relevant, Google must take action immediately.
Cut the Crap (and the Gimmicks)
From day one, the thing that bugged me the most about Google+ was its insistence on being an exclusive club for exclusive people. I despise that kind of behavior. It's the same strategy Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) used to push the iPad 2: by making shipments as scarce as possible, people flocked to buy the tablet. Similarly, when Google+ invites were hard to come by, people were eager to get their hands on one.
Whereas the iPad 2 shortage was defended with a common tech industry excuse (Apple claimed to be making and shipping the devices as fast as possible), Google used the beta banner to cover up the real reason for its exclusivity: hype. If it had been a real beta, Google would have wanted to keep a low profile to ensure that the general public did not rush into the service and stumble upon any unpleasant bugs. Instead, Google shoved the service down our throats with an insurmountable amount of hype.
But instead of getting consumers' attention, it has only made Facebook fight harder to maintain its dominance in the field. Google cannot afford another mistake of this magnitude. Going forward, the company must be open and honest with its users. If the company needs to test out another product (ex: another attempt at streaming music), then it must do so with as little hype as possible. If things spiral out of control on their own, consumers will recognize that. But if Google frequently hypes the beta on its blog or anywhere else, we will see through the deception and return to Facebook.
Don't Aspire – Just Acquire!
When it comes to acquisitions, Google is arguably the smartest company in the world. From Zagat, its most recent purchase, to YouTube and Android, Google has boosted its name and its bottom line by acquiring companies that improve its business. Even Motorola (NYSE: MMI), an acquisition that many experts have questioned, will likely turn out to be a homerun for Google – if only for the patents and the ability to infiltrate our television sets via sneaky cable boxes.
Thus, instead of simply attempting to one-up Facebook, why not acquire a few companies that have the potential to do that all on their own? Up until Android came along, no company could touch the iPhone. But times have changed. Google has become – I hate the word but I'm going to use it anyway – a “disruptor” of mobile technology. If Google can take on Apple and live to tell about it, it can surely take on Facebook.
The Google name may be strong, but the Google+ branding is not. The two biggest social networks, Facebook and Twitter, have unique names. The same can be said for MySpace. In fact, all of Google's biggest brands – Android, YouTube, Zagat, etc. – have unique names as well.
Why, then, does the company insist on adding the “Google” name to every social network it creates? Even if Google+ became the best social network in the world, it still wouldn't sound as cool or as catchy as Facebook.
While a new name could be risky, Google should consider rebranding its social networking service – sooner rather than later.
Settle for Third, Plan for First
Google might want to sit this battle out for the time being. That's not to say that it should walk away from social networking – quite the contrary. But Facebook is the dominant player, period. Not even Twitter (the cooler, faster, more mobile social network) could put a dent in Facebook's success. Granted, the two networks are very different from each other, where as Google+ is simply a Facebook clone. But if a social network that is arguably better than Facebook cannot win this war, how can Google+ ever expect to compete?
Google would be smarter to take a more subtle approach. Settle – yes, settle – for third place. Stop shoving the network down our throats. Remove that ridiculous arrow from Google.com. Allow the other players to continue their battle for first and slowly (and quietly) build up a loyal fan base. Once the fan base is acquired and maintained, Google can focus on the bigger picture.
If nothing else, Google needs to realize that a social network is only as good as the number of friends, relatives and colleagues that use the service. If none of the people that Bob Everyman wants to communicate with are on Google+, he isn't likely to use the service. He may try to persuade his family and friends to come aboard, but that annoyance can only go on for so long. If they don't come on their own accord, Bob won't stay. It's that simple.
This, unfortunately, is perhaps the biggest reason why social networks have such a hard time competing with Facebook.
Follow me @LouisBedigian
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