One Move That Would Guarantee Google+ Beats Facebook

  |  November 8, 2011   |  Comments

Google has to provide a "+" to users and provide a completely different experience if it wants to surpass Facebook.

For the past three months, I've been trying to rationalize how Google+ would become a serious threat to Facebook. I've considered the success that Google+ has experienced in the short term, boasting 25 million users before going to beta as well as current reports of its more than 40 million users. But I then thought, that's still a drop in the bucket against Facebook's now 800 million global users. Now, less than 24 hours after the announcement of Google+ Pages, I think if Google is truly going to compete with Facebook, then it needs to act like yesterday never happened and go somewhere Facebook can never go.

Before I delve into the abovementioned, a little history lesson on the search wars between Google and Microsoft is necessary to best illustrate the path I believe Google should take. In the latter part of the last decade, before Bing branding and a Yahoo alliance was forged, Microsoft made a strategic decision to try and move its appeal into a rabbit hole that Google could never go down. The move? Microsoft introduced Cashback, a program designed to reward users for purchasing from Microsoft's search engine by rebating a variable percentage based on the merchant and product being obtained. Microsoft underwrote a substantial amount of the program and ultimately determined it to be an unsustainable model. So while Microsoft was correct that Google would not follow, it was proven wrong in its views on the possibility of marketshare growth from the exercise.

That brings us back to Facebook and Google (and the threat it poses). At this year's f8, Facebook introduced radical advancements in the core wall experience with Timeline, important shifts in the "serendipitous" connects made between users using verbs, and expanded the canvas for advertisers accessible through Sponsored Stories. In these moves, Facebook further aligned its own future success with the advertising community, at least financially. Little has been developed to suggest Facebook is going to suddenly improve as a customer acquisition utility versus the retention and loyalty success Facebook is today. This is where Google has the opportunity to strike.

In its early days, Google intentionally avoided taking advertising on any search results pages, a practice it upheld for several years. The founders believed it inappropriate for the user experience connection they were trying to foster. Now, with an empire that includes leadership or near top of category positioning in search, display, and mobile, one could argue that the presence of brand advertising inside Google+ is equally unnecessary at this time.

While Facebook continues to cozy up to brands and encourage the ability to tell stories to an enormous audience, the proposition from Google+ is clearly different for brands in that their opportunities to target and advertise may come from everywhere but Google+. As a marketer, I crave the ability to engage with consumers in natural conversation, to bring to the dialogue content and relevancy to match their intent - be it for discovery or to reach a destination. But that has never been a prerequisite for Google. In fact, there are many signals that suggest Google would prefer a world less-burdened by advertising obligations.

With yesterday’s announcement of Google+ Pages, it's impossible to now imagine a Google+ without brands. In fact, the starts and stops of user growth on Google+ now suggests that building the platform itself will only get so many to come. Now, Google finds itself needing brands to add consistent and relevant content to drive more widespread adoption.

That said, I believe that a Google+ free of brand advertising inside the platform in exchange for user data usage across all other properties would be a highly valuable transaction for all parties involved. The result - Google gains what drives its engine, user data, and users gain the equivalent of commercial-free programming. Brands are responsible for creating unique content opportunities and sharing environments without directly soliciting inside the space. That would happen elsewhere across the Google network.

If Google+ wants to surpass Facebook and its 500 million daily users, it has to provide a completely different experience. One way to do that would be to amplify the value of consumer control. It would not only distinguish the platform, but it would also put the interjection of Sponsored Stories and Promoted Tweets into conversations on tilt by a Google+ world free from noise that consumers generally wish to avoid while playing up relevancy to match consumer intent, a Google trademark.

Given that Google has gone to market with +Pages, there are two options left. Pretend that Monday never happened and kick brands off. It has already done it once without fatal results, so it's not impossible - yet, certainly unlikely. Or, the other option is to turn +Pages into a non-marketing-specific vehicle. Allowing brands to be creators and curators of content while requiring the connections and investments to stay outside the realm of Google+.

Google has to provide a "+" to users, and brands will do that through content. Creating a world less beholden to brand paid media, in exchange for a data gold mine, might just be the way to attract users and distract Facebook in the battles to come.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!*
*Early Bird Rates expire April 17.


Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next, the forward-looking, media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris is responsible for curating and communicating insight-focused media solutions across established and emerging platforms. Leveraging his multi-year experience with emerging media companies, Chris is tasked with stewarding GroupM Next in partnership with agency leadership from GroupM's four media marketing and marketing service agencies (Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, and Mindshare).

Guiding the Predictive Insights, Technology, Education, Research, and Communications teams at GroupM Next, Chris is responsible for overseeing the amplification of insights into opportunities that directly benefit the business of GroupM agencies and their clients. GroupM is the world's largest media investment management group and the media holding arm of WPP.

Chris was selected to lead GroupM Next after nine years of leading the search marketing practice within GroupM. Among his accomplishments include the development and integration of the global search marketing offering for GroupM agencies, GroupM Search, which manages $1.3 billion in search billings globally and has grown to more than 1,000 search marketing strategists serving 40 countries.

Chris is an active member on advisory boards at the 4A's, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and I-COM. He is a frequent speaker in global forums discussing the digital marketplace, and contributes editorial commentary regularly to Advertising Age, ClickZ, MediaPost, and

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Search newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?


    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora,, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...