(Cross-posted @ PulsePoint Group's Points of View blog)
A little over a year ago, these were the first thirteen words of a Forbes story titled “Google vs. Facebook”:
“Competition is heating up between Google and Facebook for control of the universe…”
Whether you’re a Chief Communications Officer or a Chief Marketing Officer, it is extremely important you understand the nature of this battle because the wars waged over the Web by these behemoths can, and will increasingly, impact your online strategy.
Like every major conflict, it started as genuine competition (“I wonder what those guys are doing?”) before a fundamental difference of opinion (“That’s not the way it’s done!”) triggered a full-out war with some former Google employees taking parting shots on their way to Facebook.
Google, which went public less than five years ago, grossed nearly $22 billion last year in only its 10th year of existence. As far as the Internet is concerned, if you were to compare Google to an American, with the options being a) Tom Hanks, b) Tiger Woods, c) Barack Obama or d) Oprah Winfrey, the answer would be e) ‘greater than all of the above’.
That said, Google’s belief that everything should be searchable and that the results should be algorithmically derived (unless you get paid search results) is less so a belief that it is a way of life. Everything from your cell phone to your Web browser likely relies on Google’s unmatched database to generate those search results. Whenever someone searches your company’s name or your latest product, eight times out of 10 (or more often) they’re using Google.
Meanwhile, Facebook, founded just months before Google’s record-breaking IPO, has had an impressive run as well. The site is rated as the top social networking site in the world with upwards to 200 million users, more than 60 million users more than runner-up MySpace. Along with doubling its overall membership in eight months (100 million more users from August 2008 to April 2009), Zuckerberg reported that from February to April of this year they doubled their 35-and-older usage. No one can say “that thing’s only for college kids” anymore and chances are a good percentage of your employees are on Facebook.
But to the outside world, Facebook is close-to invisible. At least that’s what Zuckerberg would want. He’s possibly the smartest, or most savvy, Harvard dropout since Bill Gates. No Google search is going to get you into your chief rival’s Facebook account if the privacy controls are properly set. Facebook’s underlying principle is to get users to spend hours upon hours operating the majority of their online lives (and friendships) through their site, rather than clicking through search results.
And with 200 million users, Facebook’s arsenal against Google’s primary line of business – search – is formidable. Similarly, Google is public while Facebook has yet to IPO (a 2007 Microsoft purchase of stock valued the company at $15 billion) so the stakes are much higher for Google because Facebook can come up with its latest new invention with so little as a heads up or press release while Google, like a smart company should, blogs to keep the “Google is Evil” believers at bay.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s endorsement of President Obama was not an official company position, but the company didn’t shy away from hosting political discussions less favorable to Senator McCain throughout the election. Still, it was Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, not Schmidt, who gained most of the attention and recognition for helping to design the President’s online platform and strategy.
So the battle extends from the Silicon Valley to Washington, D.C. and even to the world’s most populated country thanks to a $60 million investment in Facebook by the wealthiest man in China, Li Ka-shing, and Google’s decision to open offices in Beijing even though their government blocks many of the results (which goes against Google’s core belief).
As the battle continues, it will be imperative that CCOs and CMOs decide which belief is more aligned with their corporate philosophy and their communications strategy. As CopyBlogger recently stated, “the rise of Facebook creates a growing segment of the web that’s completely invisible to search engines - most of which, Facebook blocks - and can be seen only by logged-in Facebook users. So as Facebook becomes ever larger, and keeps more users inside its walled garden, your web site will need to appear in Facebook’s feeds and searches or you will miss out on an important source of web traffic.”
Even WPP Chief Sir Martin Sorrell said Google keeps him awake at night. Sorrell called Google the “elephant in the room” in describing their position in relation to traditional media companies.
So, in thinking about your company’s online strategy, do you go with the open approach that relies on an extensive search of information or do you go with the closed approach that relies on access to a network of individuals?
Everyday, we help clients strategically navigate this Internet minefield, but does your company know how to or are you about to step on an ROI landmine?
I've said it before and I'll say it again: people like to end their relationships in the winter and early spring so that they can be single during the summer. The easy answer as to why this happens is because people are more likely to stay in (and go out much less) during cold winter nights than hot summer ones, so they need someone to get close with and stay warm. By the time May rolls around, all bets (and relationships that weren't going anywhere long-term) are off.