What did Facebook do to MySpace? They crushed them in the social networking wars, and, yes, Google can do the same to Facebook, but they have a lot of work to do. Google has entered the social media “game” extremely late. Facebook is extremely large and still growing. Facebook now has over 600 million users. To put that in perspective, if Facebook was a country and all the users were residents, Facebook would be the 3rd largest country on the earth behind only China, and India. And, honestly, Facebook would probably be even larger if it was not banned from China’s 1.5 billion (with a b) residents. From a business perspective, Facebook carries a reputation of being a great social media tool where businesses can promote their product and services. That is a one-two punch that gives Facebook a huge head start.
So what would Google have to do?
- Provide more privacy than Facebook. Critics of Facebook continue to hammer Facebook on what seems to be the lack of concern for user privacy and the constant change in privacy settings and defaults. It does not help, either, when the Founder says that “Privacy is dead”. This is ,without a doubt ,Facebook’s Achilles’ heal. Google+ has to provide more security than Facebook. This will be a challenge since Google is facing criticism about its own respect for user privacy.
- Operate with a small nimble group with autonomy from the Google’s upper management in order to be innovative, efficient, and virtually free of bureaucracy. In my opinion, the selling of MySpace to News Corp did not help MySpace. MySpace became part of a bureaucracy that did not allow it to keep pace with the much sleeker Facebook.
- Add innovative tools that improve user experience and promote social media and connections. In essence, Google+ must be the new “IT” site in the circle of social media sites.
- Get influential early adopters to use their social network. This will get an easier buy-in from everyone else. Who are these early adopters? College students. This was the approach Facebook (or The Facebook as I knew it) used in their nascent years as it was initially only available to people with .edu email addresses. A number of other tech services became popular in academic settings before going main stream, also. The Google search engine, for example, became popular with academics for narrowing down the results from queries, and Firefox became the darling of browsers by offering innovative features and a standard interpretation of html.
In my opinion, social networking sites are no different from night clubs. When the in-crowd shows up, everyone else will follow. Eventually, the in-crowd will get tired of the scene for one reason or another, and they will party elsewhere. Eventually, other people move on to the next “IT” thing, and, if Google+ is to thrive, it has to incorporate the four items above to become that “IT”.