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Two Philosophies of Weaving Online Social Fabric

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Google+ just released its business pages (Google+ Your Business)  features, allowing organizations to create profiles and interact with their customers. And once again, we’re seeing how Google and Facebook differ in their social media philosophies.

Using their Google+ accounts, people can now subscribe to businesses and receive messages in their feeds, and businesses can track how people are interacting with their brand using some of Google+’s outstanding analytics features (and you can expect more as Google integrates PageRank features into their technology).

Google also recently announced Direct Connect, a feature of its search engine where adding ‘+’ to the beginning of your search query will bring you directly to the Google+ business page. This feature is currently limited to only a few brands, but any organization will soon be able to join the program.

Direct Connect is certainly a feature that makes use of Google’s greatest asset: its search engine. The feature also demonstrates how Google+ is pursuing its goal of turning on the social aspects of Google search.

In this way, we can see the different philosophies of Google and Facebook. While Google has a far-reaching and diverse portfolio of properties, only now is Google+ filling in the social gaps between the products and bringing businesses into the picture to benefit from the connections and the resulting customer data.

What about Facebook?

Conversely, Facebook has a stable, interconnected platform but lacks the far-reaching and diverse products of Google. That’s why it focuses on building Facebook as a platform for developers – to extend its reach and to collect more types of data about its users. Then, of course, its popular Facebook business pages collect customer data and oversee interactions.

Mark Zuckerberg has said that the past five years of Facebook was about building the user base, and the next five years will be about building on top of Facebook, and using it as a social platform.

To put it simply: Google is like a skeleton and Facebook is more like lego. Google is filling in the gaps, while Facebook looks to add new pieces.

Google’s advantages

With its Google+ Your Business, Google is trying to give even more social understanding to business. This includes the +1 button, which is popping up everywhere across Google, including lots of blogs and other website content, and Google assets like Youtube and text and image results pages – which Facebook can never be as integrated with as Google’s own social products will be.

The two philosophies come from two very different companies with very different origins. It’s also important to remember that while Google+ now boasts 40 million users, Facebook has around 800 million – and as a result, the two companies priorities could be somewhat different.

…and the others?

Other competitors like Apple and Twitter continue to pop up to stake their technological claims with their vast user bases and disparate philosophies. As a result, it’s difficult to foresee who might dominate social media in the future, but as the platforms exist now, their roots are still showing and dictating their strategies for growth.

For more insight into Google+, read the Steven Levy article that I believe to be the definite writing on the social platform: “Inside Google+ — How the Search Giant Plans to Go Social” from June 2011; and a more recent piece from Wired about why Google+ Your Business may be able to trump Facebook Pages.

  • Kent Clark

    Reminds me of Steve Yegge’s post on G+ (https://plus.google.com/112678702228711889851/posts/eVeouesvaVX) talking about how Google doesn’t get platforms. I have to say I agree with Yegge’s comment that – unless you’re Steve Jobs – you can’t predict how users are going to use something, so you should develop extensible platforms that enable them to do what they want instead of just providing social media functions.

    Take Facebook versus + right now. Google has taken a micro-selection of Facebook use cases, and filled them better than Facebook has, but Facebook still dominates because of the mish-mash of features that allow it to be so much more.I also like his statement about how Wave was the most promising platform Google developed.

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