Google is Not Facebook (and Vice Versa)

Google seems to be trying of late to do everything they can to be like Facebook. They’ve restructured their executive management to do it. They’ve structured their company bonuses to get there. They’ve released an equivalent to Facebook’s “like” button. They seem to really want to be on top of social search, but I can help but think, “why?” Let’s “face” it – Google is not social. They don’t have to be.

As I’ve been playing with Google’s “+1” buttons I’m really trying to think what the benefit is. When I want something my close friends and family to see, I go to Facebook, or I send them an email. Google’s “+1” button does neither of that, and if it were to send an email that would just annoy them. I absolutely love that they’re trying, but I don’t get what benefit “+1” gives me.

It’s time for Google to realize that Facebook owns your social graph. Twitter owns some of that too. Yet, despite the new management structure and bonus incentives, I don’t see Larry and Sergey using Facebook more or Twitter more. I don’t see them checking into already social places like Foursquare or Facebook Places. Instead I see flurries of Google employees canceling their Facebook accounts and running away from what’s already social. I’d like to see them spend some time learning from those tools, starting from upper levels of management.

Google seems to really want to be Facebook or Twitter, but the thing is – they don’t have to. Their crown jewels are search. Their crown jewels are email. Their crown jewels are providing simple places to integrate advertising. Okay, Facebook has some of that, but when I truly want to search, I still go to Google. In the end, my Facebook notifications and messages go to my Gmail inbox.  I can’t help but wonder if Google would stop trying to pretend it’s a competitor with Facebook, Facebook would start letting them use their APIs and integrate where my social graph actually exists.

Here’s what I’d do if I were Google – stop trying to reproduce what Facebook is doing. They’re not Facebook! Instead, embrace Facebook as a partner. Integrate Facebook “like” buttons into Google search. Integrate my Facebook friend lists into my email experience. Integrate my Facebook friends into my Google Docs, or even my Google Buzz experience. Bring Facebook over to Google.

Then, see what happens. What will happen is people will naturally bring their friends and family from Facebook over to Google. They’ll naturally bring their interactions over to Google.  Google never even has to try to reproduce the experience. They know how this can be a success because Youtube is already doing it.

I realize all this is dependent on Facebook cooperating, but I really think if Google would stop trying to be Facebook, Facebook would stop pushing back. I wish Google would try this – it’s what I ask my clients and those I work with to do. I would ask nothing else from any other brand I like. The fact is when someone sees you as a friend, they’ll stop treating you like an enemy. It’s simple, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (also see Guy Kawasaki’s “Enchantment“).

Let’s re-approach this if we know Facebook, regardless of Google trying to cooperate, won’t work together. I’m still not sure Google’s tried hard enough in this area.

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One thought on “Google is Not Facebook (and Vice Versa)

  1. I think everyone is looking at Google's +1 in the wrong way! I don't think it is necessarily meant to be a social tool. Although eventually it may be used as that as well. I see it as a test run for user generated “approvals” in order to simply make the search results better and more relevant. +1 is Google's phase 2 response to the content farms in the algorithm tweak that was done in late February.

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