Google (minus)

I had an interview at eBay a while back.  Before I left, my dad mentioned something to me in passing which stuck with me.  He said to “Pay close attention to how a company that has never had any competition learns to compete.”

Truer words were never spoke.

Sadly, I can’t help but think about his comments when reading that Google is going through right now.

Google’s problem is two-fold…and it’s not Facebook’s threat of ad displacement through social – that’s just simply going to happen.  Google needs to adapt to a multi-company existence to survive.

Issue #1 – EVERYONE OUTSIDE OF THE GOOGLEPLEX perceives Google as a SEARCH company, and it’s efforts to use that data for ads to date are usually viewed as ‘creepy’.  Google+ just makes it way creepier and is like big brother is forcing itself upon them.

Issue #2 – Google shouldn’t try to compete w/ Facebook on the social side, it just won’t work b/c people are looking to be ‘social’ when they are going to Google to SEARCH.  Instead, Google needs to focus on what it does best (SEARCH) and how it can PARTNER with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more to keep its visitors/users engaged with GOOGLE and not multiple other services.

The problem with Google’s approach to social is the same problem with Facebook’s approach to advertising – they are trying to be something they are NOT.  This causes a lack of focus on what they are strong on, and a rat hole of time, money, and resources to be something they aren’t.

Example: Microsoft – they got their hat handed to them by Google in search and Apple in OS & mobile b/c they got distracted from core competencies and tried to be something they are not.  The only area where they haven’t been beat (yet) is Office, and personally the shift to the cloud and consumer mindset of things therefore being free will disrupt this model soon.

Example: Yahoo! – They got beat not once, not twice, but THREE times by Google (and arguably themselves).

  1. They were king of the hill for content and search, until google created the ‘hole in the screen’ and got people to what they wanted faster (and more accurately).  Yahoo killed off search and outsourced it to Google for a while even!
  2. Google took off in the advertising space, it was driven by strong, measurable ROI for advertisers as well as a quality/discounting mechanism to even further improve that ROI based off conversions.  Yahoo spent literally 3+ YEARS trying to get a worthwhile quality management system up and running.  The real tragedy here was that Yahoo! didn’t realize that it was a 2nd rate operation.  It INSISTED in charging 1st tier (i.e. Google) rates to search advertisers, yet the return was 30-50% LESS than Google.
  3. Display.  Again, Yahoo, via it’s deep content network and email user base was able to own the display market for a while.  This is no longer the case.  They bought RightMedia and then totally screwed the pooch on the integration of it as anything more than just an exchange.  The founders of RightMedia went on to start AppNexus – arguably ‘phase 2’ of what RightMedia would have been – and are one of the dominant players in the space.  Google has bought up everything else in the ad tech display stack, and are hard at work connecting all the pipes and will soon own this (along with Facebook).

If Google tries to go after Facebook with Google+, it will soon end up like MSFT and YHOO in no time.  No one wants to be fighting the death spiral of managing quality and revenue – and if Google’s ROI for its advertisers start to slip due to Facebook’s depth of data, engagement, and ROI for advertisers – that’s exactly what they will soon be doing.

Google needs to find a way to increase user engagement, offer them a service that isn’t intrusive or creepy (at least not moreso than the benefit that it provides), and still allows Google to collect a wealth of information about them.  Take GMAIL for example.  Taking a ‘contact manager’ to the next level would further engagement.  This is where SocialManagr would shine.  Google allows people to

Also, why isn’t G+ letting people cross-pollenate their posts?  It’s hard enough to keep them all up to date, much less another that has no 3rd party apps to manage/post.  That’s the power of FB – apps and a platform.  You can push TO FB or FROM FB…as long as they are *using* Facebook then they are golden.

Doesn’t matter anyhow.  I think that the real long term threat here is Twitter. They are the social media equivalent of search, and will define the category of “in stream ads”, which is where this is all heading.