Google's foray into full-blown social networking has certainly caused some social media cognitive dissonance. Should I tweet, tumbl, update my status, or +1 myself? It's almost maddening at times. As I've read various reviews and poked around Google+ and compared it to Facebook, my sense is that to win this social media shootout, Google and Facebook should focus on the following 3 differentiators:
- Pictures - Photo sharing continues to increase on social networks with women typically uploading more photos than men. It's estimated that Facebook will have have over 100 billion photos uploaded through the summer of 2011. Google+ offers automatic uploading of photos via Android phones using its instant upload feature while Facebook is currently at work on an iPhone photo sharing app. Personally, I have used my Android phone to upload pictures to both Facebook and Google+. I do like the instant upload that Google+ offers as I'm able to log on to Google+ and to manage all the photos I've taken with my phone and to share them with people who only have email addresses (like my parents) and no social network presence. Given that mobile device usage will continue to increase and that, people using Facebook on mobile devices are twice as active as non-mobile users, ease of photo uploading and management appears to be a key differentiator.
- Privacy - recent missteps by both Facebook and Google have made privacy a centerpiece of discussion. Google+ touts it Circles feature as a privacy differentator. From my initial use of Circles, I think that's a little bit of a misnomer. Even if I only share an item to a circle that has one person in it, that person could share that item publicly - making my desire for privacy irrelevant. Google believes that the person sharing sets up the walls of privacy. I think they have it wrong. It's the person being shared to that sets up the walls. In Facebook, I can hide posts from people that are chronic and/or mindless status updaters. Similarly, my Facebook friends can do that same with me. I'd rather let the receiver decide if they want to see a picture of my kids or a link to an article I think is worthwhile than make that decision myself. Privacy will continue to be an area where differentiation can occur, especially the privacy of the collective consumer data that Facebook and Google plan to divulge.
- People - Facebook certainly has the lead in active users. Demographically speaking, Facebook has about a 50/50 split between men and women, while Google+ users are 90% male with heavy technology backgrounds - kind of like your high-school calculus class revisited. Personally, I'd still rather look at pictures of my friends kayaking on Facebook than pictures of Sergey Brin parachuting on Google+ - but that's just me.
The Marketing Takeaway
Both Facebook and Google+ should use the 3 differentiators above to focus on monetization. What type of audience will marketers be looking to reach? Where should marketing directors plan their social spend? Would marketers want their more product or services to be shared by a selective audience or a broader one? How will marketers encourage social sharing?
Are there other key differentiators I am missing? How do you think Google+ will make money?