Google+ and the Social Media Covenant

July 18, 2011

As anyone who has a social networking pulse knows, Google recently launched its first real Facebook competitor. Thus far, most of the reviews based on the platform itself have been positive. While there is debate as to whether it is possible to compete with Facebook, the quick growth among the early adopter crowd says, at the very least, there might be room for the two of them.

Even with limited invitations, G+ managed to top the 10 million user mark in no time. Still, that hardly cuts into the 750 million users on Facebook right now. Given the early field release, it is tough to tell if people will completely migrate, just stick to Facebook or live in both worlds. However, there is one thing that G+ has right now, which makes it much better than Facebook: quiet.

By quiet, I refer to the lack of marketing and corporate noise that clutters Facebook streams. Not only that, user streams don't fill up with friends' changed relationship statuses or recent game advancement. Now, a lot of this has to do with the nascent nature of the service. One would think, over time, that the G+ noise will increase as users increase. Although, the fact that things like +1s, which are G+'s "Likes," are tucked away on a tab in a person's profile and not in the main stream could indicate that some restraint is in place.

The question becomes: Is there a way to keep advertising/corporations out of G+?

I am sure Google will want to "monetize" its social network. But is the best way to increase the value of G+ and compete with Facebook to sell ads and let in corporate communication? I think not.

Let's face it, G+ gives Google even more data points about who were are and what we like. The value of targeted marketing in search, Gmail and all the other Google products just increased exponentially. Hey, the people over at Mountain View already had a ton of information on us, now they have a platform where we tell them through sparks what we are interested in hearing about, through our stream we tell them what we are thinking about now, and through our circles we tell them who we know.

With all that, I think there needs to be a trade-off. If Google wants people to abandon Facebook, it should make a pact--one that Facebook can't. G+ should remain noise and advertising free. Sure, we will keep giving you data like we did on Facebook. And, you can use it to sell advertising, just like Facebook does, just keep it to your other applications and out of G+.

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg only have one place to sell their users to marketers: Facebook. Google has greater flexibility and several platforms where advertising already exists and is accepted. At a time when everyone is wondering why they should switch to a platform that is very similar to Facebook, this could be a real unique selling proposition for Google.

"Tired of advertising and corporate shilling on Facebook and Twitter? Come to us, and socialize without ads!"

Maybe I am wrong, and the value of G+ data is not enough to offset no advertising. But if Google is really serious about enticing Facebook users to change their virtual lives, it needs something bigger than huddles and sparks. A no-ad zone could be just that.

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Jeff Francis is a marketing geek who would never refer to himself as a guru. He is that weird sort who enjoys watching commercials and analyzing communication strategies. He is also available for hire and would love to hear from you. So, head on over to the contact page and get in touch.

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