Google Plus Vs. Facebook—Why It’s Not the Rivalry You Think It Is

Will Google+ overtake Facebook? Is Google+ the Facebook killer? Tech bloggers and social media analysts love to ask these types of questions for their controversial nature and status-quo-changing implications. But these click-baited loaded questions are often over-simplified. To analyze how Google+ is doing compared to Facebook, we must first answer the question:


How do you measure the success of a digital product? One answer is popularity and the size of the user base: when millions of people consistently use your product for hours a week, you’ve clearly hit a chord.  Another answer is profitability: when your product generates advertising revenue or sales that put you in the green—congrats, you’re successful (in business terms at least). Facebook has both popularity and profitability, and is without a doubt the reigning social entity online today. Going public has turned its primary allegiance towards its investors, as it becomes more focused on profitability and advertising revenue with a somewhat secondary focus on its plateauing user numbers. The popularity of Google+ is less known. While it has over 300 million registered users, it’s not clear how many people are actually going to Google+ and posting pictures, sharing statuses, commenting, and reading posts on a regular basis.

From our experience, Google+ is somewhat popular online but it’s always used as the punch line of a social media joke. It’s the ugly duckling of the group; the site nobody wants to hang out on. Therefore, Google+’s success almost certainly lies in its potential for profitability. But how can a product that nobody uses make any money? It all comes back to Google’s original specialty: data. Google+ was never supposed to be a Facebook clone.  Although Google might have had a pipedream of replacing Facebook, it likely knew that Google+ wouldn’t become the new destination for your baby photos, political musings, and celebrity-worship blog posts.

The purpose of Google+ is to tie Google’s array of products with individuals, matching your personal behavior and history across a wide variety of its managed properties. Not only can Google tie you to all of their search properties (Web, Image, Shopping, News, Flights), but they can link all of their other products such as YouTube, the Play Store, Blogger, Maps, and more. If Google 1.0 was compiling and organizing websites in order to display relevant ads alongside search queries, then the Google of today is compiling and organizing a robust portfolio of digital products and services in order to display relevant ads within or alongside its content. What Google+ has that Facebook doesn’t is a vast under-system, all linked by the Google login. Google+ is not just a website for social sharing. Instead, it’s a hidden but powerful framework that is set up to grow and evolve within the Google ecosystem. What Google has done is laid down the groundwork for a widespread social webbing, linking their current (and future) products with individuals. This lucrative data will be leveraged in ways that will pay off in spades for the search giant. It’s illogical to pit Google+ and Facebook against one another as if they are direct competitors.

While the front-facing appearance of Google+ mimics Facebook in functionality, its intentions with your participation extend beyond feeds and profile pages. The data that lies within is the true diamond in the rough, which Google will continue to mine with spectacular success.

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Kerry Channon

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