Facebook can beat Google+ if…
Reports of Facebook’s death are greatly exaggerated. One month after Google’s launch of an impressive social networking site, Google+, many bloggers are not only comparing the two services in OK Corral terms, but some have written the eulogy for Facebook, invoking names like, Netscape Navigator, MySpace and Google Wave. Though Google+ has made a strong initial showing, with a course that, if continued, will surpass both LinkedIn and Twitter in total users within a year, there remains about a 175 million reasons, and more, for holding off on those goodbyes you’d prepared for the social network giant.
One reason not to throw in the towel for Facebook is that it is far from certain that Google+ is trying to compete directly with Facebook. Think about the many sports complexes that host different sports teams whose fan bases overlap in many instances. The introduction of a new football team into a stadium that also features a baseball team is hardly viewed as much of a threat, despite the fact that some baseball fans may become more interested the novelty of the football squad. The fact of the matter is that, judging from current demographics, Google+ users have much more in common with Linkedin account holders than with those of Facebook.
Google+ and LinkedIn have strong followings in certain segments of the overall population. Too large to accurately be called niches, these profiles, technically proficient, educated professionals, heavy on the male side and working in high tech and finance, are among the 25-34 and 35-44 age ranges. Facebook users, however, include much larger percentages and numbers of those not in high tech or finance, many of whom might find Google more technical than they’d like.
Another advantage Facebook has over Google+ is access. To sign on to Google+, a would-be account holder must first establish a Google identity; for Facebook, any e-mail account will do. Facebook’s ease of access to establish an account is not to be overlooked by users trying to trim back their various e-mail accounts, not add to the overall number. As observations about social media burnout seem consistent with a slowdown of new Facebook accounts, that same burnout will also likely affect potential GPlus users who don’t already have a Gmail account, Google+’s primary source for early adopters in the new site.
One more advantage in position for Facebook over Google+ is the time factor. Facebook has time on its side as it can adapt to trends and inroads made by Google+, while at the same time, Google will begin to run into the first, inevitable chinks in their armor as their social media product experiences growing pains. As long as Facebook doesn’t experience any more major gaffes, such as security, privacy or blocking of apps without warning, they can wait for a moment of their choosing to introduce new features, already in the final stages of development, or take advantage of known shortcomings possessed by Google+.
Two features, one already in use and another about to get underway, may change the directions both networking sites steer. One is the current use of Facebook by businesses. With the ability to load company specific applications and link the Facebook page to services and products, Facebook has a running start on Google+, which does not yet have, or encourage, specialized accounts for businesses.
The second feature Facebook has in the pipeline is a tentative connection to Skype. Plans are to embed a Skype feature on Facebook to add both functionality to the page and develop synergistic advantages between the two services. Google+ already has a similar, and by many accounts, superior feature known as Hangouts, although again, you have to be a Google account holder to join Google+.
Beating Google+ may well turn out to be just another abandoned concept by one year’s time. Facebook already has a commanding position, and even if Google challenges the leader of the social network, FB only has to adjust and not make any major mistakes. The 25 million users now signed up with G+ will grow, taking away millions from Facebook. Some of those crossovers will stay and others will experiment and return to what they know, where their friends are and the program with which they are most familiar. A catastrophe, though, could hasten the demise now being predicted.