Zuckerberg is a man so certain of the success of his quest that he can afford to ignore the latest attempt by Google to disrupt the social space. He displays a confidence similar to a card shark who has devoted a prodigious effort in studying every possible move by his competitors. And who now feels safe with the knowledge that every card is marked.
This type of naive fiction has worked in the past, and it may work still. But the Google Plus reality is different. Very different.
Why Facebook keeps dealing the Joker
Facebook ads are better but the content is getting worse. Our activity streams look like a never ending Barnum and Bailey circus act with a parade of new exhibits and headline performances. But instead of the bearded lady, we get Cooking Mama and Salon Street.
We can’t turn off the freak show, we can only wade through the exhibits until we find one or two that we’re interested in. For me, this is boring, semi-useless and a time-waster.
Alternatively, Facebook should be ranking the content in my stream by my past “likes” while keeping that higher ranking content at the top of my activity stream. Instead, the best content is buried while Cooking Mama loiters on the side of my feed.
Google+ has approached it differently. They allow you to filter content by circles. Think of these circles as a ten (more or less) ring circus where one can simply tune into the acts and people for which they have an interest. The best part is that the user controls who is in or out of the circles.
Facebook’s pursuit of a pseudo economy
If Facebook spent as much time courting the Global 3000 as it does Zynga, they could have real impact on real business. Instead, they seem content with investing in a pretend economy with pretend coins. Insiders tell me that fake currency is a very real focus for the company.
It seems Facebook is deliberately coercing us into the virtual world by the constant notifications, advertising and emails they are hurling at us on a daily basis. I like to Hang With Friends on Zynga but I also like to build business relationships. These relationships have lasting benefits beyond gaming. But Facebook isn’t really there.
Google’s Enterprise opportunity
While Google has not figured out how to extract non-advertising dollars out of businesses either, with Google Plus there are some opportunities. I can see business users utilizing hangouts like they use Skype today. Except hangouts are integrated into our social networks and not trapped in a Skype silo.
I can also see users creating private work circles for their fellow employees, business partners and clients. This arrangement maintains user privacy while eliminating the need to have multiple social networks for personal and business use. No need to maintain multiple networks, just remember which circle to update.
But the big opportunity for Google is to leverage all of the content, relationships and communications we produce on the Google platform. Imagine a platform that studies our gmail subject matter, watches our Google search queries, follows our interactions on Google Plus, and aggregates and categorizes our “plus one” likes. Then provides us with a smarter activity stream.
Sure, it’s Orwellian, but if done properly and securely, it’s likely to reduce most of the noise while magnifying the signal. I’d prefer that over the circus.
Will Google Plus Succeed?
But up in the stands, we’re all a bit tired of Google clowning around with Social. Are they in or not? Many of us have grown quite cynical about their attempts at connecting people instead of analyzing their search behavior. It’s not computer science. It’s social science. Hire some Social Business experts and create an experience that creates real value, not fictional.
Lucky for Google, Facebook continues to struggle with the Red Queen effect. They are running fast, they have a lot of followers, but seem to be getting no where. This explains why their innovation has been intellectually exhausted for the past year. All we’ve seen out of them are Foursquare, Groupon and LinkedIn “me too” features that just add to the activity stream freak show.
And Facebook appears confused. Are they becoming an entertainment platform with fictional currency, or will they stay an advertising company? In the interim, will Google take advantage and produce a viable contender to Facebook? Many of the tech elite hope so.
For now, if Facebook wants you to become the Chief Timewaster, master of your own fictional domain, then so be it. But let’s hope Google continues to offer some meaningful tools that help the rest of us connect and collaborate and create some real economic value.