As the public observes the battle for online supremacy between Facebook and Google, one of the most frequently asked questions I get from clients is “What’s the deal with Google+? Is it worth it?”. At this point, I don’t yet have a firm stance on the validity or usefulness of Google+ from a user standpoint, but there are a few things I AM firm on when it comes to the Facebook vs. Google topic and the purpose of Google+ which may help us shed some light on the question.
Google+ is a new social networking tool, similar to Facebook, that allows you to create a list of friends, family, co-workers etc., to share photo’s and information with. This is Google’s attempt to gain ground on Facebook when it comes to knowledge of their user’s personal information. Don’t be alarmed, they don’t want to know what you sleep in or your darkest fears. What they’re really after is the basic information found in your profile such as age, gender, race, your interests, geneneral location etc., Since both companies revenue is heavily based on advertising (you may know a little about the ‘Sponsored Listings’ you see when searching on Google populated by the Google Adsense / Adwords tools), the best way for them to increase the quality of their advertising is to ensure the most relevant and interesting advertisements are being shown to each user.
How do they do this you ask?
Google knows what you’re searching for when you ‘google’ on the internet, and because of this they are able to base which ‘sponsored listings’ are shown to you. For example, if you’re searching for “used cars in Niagara” you’re likely going to see advertisements from AutoTrader.ca, Wheels.ca or local dealerships in the Niagara Region who are selling used cars. However, what Google has lacked is the ability to show certain advertisements based on your personal information, even without you first doing a Google search.
This is where Facebook excels.
Since Facebook knows so much about you through the pages you ‘like’ and the posts you deliver, they are able to show the most relevant ads possible on the right side of your personal Facebook pages. For example, if your profile lists that you work at a sporting goods store and ‘like’ the fan page of snowboarder Shaun White, you’re likely going to see snowboard product or ski resort related advertisements on your Facebook page. However, what Facebook lacks is what Google is King at, and that is knowing what you’re actively searching for.
In a nutshell, there are two key aspects in showing the most relevant (and thus, most frequently clicked) advertisements on a website, who you are, and what you’re searching for.
Google knows what you’re searching for, they have that covered, and are attempting to learn who you are through the growing popularity of Google+.
Facebook knows who you are, they have that covered, and I expect to see a web based search system integrated within Facebook in order to obtain this information in the future.
So is Google+ Worth it?
At this point the main purpose behind Google+ is to do what is described above, to gather information about their users to increase the relevancy and thus revenue of their advertising systems. I don’t feel it was ever meant to be a popular / heavily used social networking system to rival Facebook. It’s a smart and calculated business move on Google’s part but from a user stand point, it’s sort of one of those things you sign up for, but don’t actually take part in on an ongoing basis.
I will say this however, it’s a great way to ensure people find you when searching your name on Google, if that’s what you’re after. Google “Myles Calvert” (or click / view the image below) and you will see the link to my Google Profile and pretty face within the first 5 search results (Yes, I’m under several of my Father’s links who has the same name as me, that will teach me to optimize his website so well!)