Twitter and Facebook are the two powerhouses in social media right now. There isn’t a day I watch television without these two being mentioned. It’s a pretty big deal in the public’s eyes. But there is one company that has been missing out on social media opportunities for far too long — you might have heard of it: the mighty Google.
Big G can’t get hop on the social media bandwagon. Orkut has faded from existence in the States. Jaiku is dead(ish). Open Social has gone nowhere. Buzz is an unfinished product that has made a mess. That search deal with Twitter hasn’t really produced anything interesting (at least I haven’t found any use of this information on Google search queries). Latitude (Google’s location-aware social network) must have forgotten its longitude. Wave (the replacement for E-mail) is… well, I don’t even know how to describe it.
The point being that Google has produced nothing but disappointment in the social media arena. That’s not good.
Outside Looking In
We can’t help but worry about Google. The company is usually on the cutting edge of innovation, but the execution of social media continues to escape them.
But there are three reasons I can think of right now that Google needs to keep experimenting with social media until they get it right.
The first is, quite obviously, social media growth. The whole social media scene is becoming evermore important in people’s lives (and, in some cases, is taking their lives over). It’s all about connecting people and developing relationships. It puts the emphasis on the person’s network. It’s also easy to see that this is the future of the Internet. So Google doesn’t want to get left behind.
The second thing is the de-emphasis of search, which ties into social media. You see, social media is taking away from Google’s search business because as people go online and communicate with peers and share content, they do this through the social networks themselves. This reduces the necessity to search for content that would have normally been searched for previously. So instead of typing in “iPhone 4” into Google, I can click on the various links my friends on Twitter have provided instead.
Google is of little use to me in that situation.
The Core Issue
But the most important reason to worry about Google is that social media could take away from Google’s core business — advertising.
With social networks like Facebook — particularly Facebook, because of its closed nature — on the rise, Google no longer has complete control over advertising. Sure, Google can still see where you are going as long as you visit a site that has Google AdSense on it or enter a search query directly on Google. But these social networks could have a far better understanding about what its users interests are and what gets them to click. As a result, advertisers might be more inclined to go with the social media companies directly who can better target their advertisements.
Could you imagine Facebook starting their their own advertising network for publishers? Could you imagine them offering far better targeted advertisements than what Google could ever dream of?
I’m sure that is on the mind of Mark Zuckerberg as well. Publishers could possibly earn a higher CPM than what Google offers, especially since Facebook has a platform that gives users plenty of social interaction and could have an advertising platform that could help publishers capitalize on it. Not to mention that Facebook can drive a significant amount of traffic in its own right.
It could allow Facebook to become to Google of the Internet!
But what about Twitter’s own “Promoted Tweets” advertising platform? Well, instead of advertisements being served on webpages, ads could be served right in the middle of where users attention lies the most: the conversations.
So If I enter a search query on Twitter for “Best Buy” and receive a “Promoted Tweet” that offers me a five-percent discount if I purchase an item online from the retailer’s website, you better believe that I’ll be more inclined to click on that — it would be far more effective than anything Google AdSense has ever offered me.
A Matter of Time
How could Google compete with this? It seems like a pretty grim situation for the company to be in.
And if things stay the same way that they are, the company won’t be able to keep up. They, again, have no control (unless Google finds a way to integrate AdSense into Twitter, which is doubtful) over the advertising a user is presented with, and that means everything.
But it’s true that social network advertising (or whatever we eventually call these forms of advertising) will probably lag behind Google’s AdSense for a very long time, especially when considering how much of an infrastructure Google has in place. However, Google can’t be called invincible any longer until it finds a way to become a leader in social media — a task that seems more difficult for the company with the failures piling up.
The company is only missing out on a gold mine. The question is can Google afford to miss it. That will take awhile to figure out.