Social media has radically transformed the way we search, buy, and consume content online. Facebook has not only taken advantage of this, it’s become the driving force behind the new social web. Google Wave, Google Buzz and Google+ were all Google Inc.’s way of trying to win this war against Facebook, but the company is still far behind.
That’s because the current state of Google’s contribution is to act as the bottom feeder of social media, by collecting content from other social platforms, but doing little with it. Google’s biggest opportunity is to create a social ecosystem where content is created, distributed, marketed, attributed and measured. Here are five ways Google can do that, and secure its social future.
1. Buy a Social Media Dashboard/Distribution Tool
Success in social means you have to enable content creation, distribution, and integration. Facebook realized this long ago with the addition of its apps platform and now with the purchase of Instagram. Social media dashboards provide powerful content distribution features to most of the major social platforms.
This is why Google should consider buying TweetDeck (Yes, Twitter owns them. See bullet #2.), or HootSuite, as they both have a dedicated following, offer an engaging experience, and are constantly evolving. The data collected from TweetDeck or HootSuite would be extremely valuable to Google, as it’s one of the few companies that can monetize that data as it’s created and captured. If Google really wanted to, it could even integrate the content in real time, similar to a sports ticker, into Google Search. This would create a truly unique offering and a powerful tool.
2. Buy Twitter
This expensive piece of social real estate will get Google in the game much faster and raise its social credibility. Although Google did purchase Blogger in 2003, it still doesn’t have the social impact of a platform like Twitter. Not to mention, the huge cost and commitment that went into building and marketing Google+ has shown nominal results because it’s simply not better or different enough from other similar platforms.
More than anything, Twitter can be Google’s next YouTube. When Google was accused of overpaying $1.65 billion for YouTube in 2006, it understood that the sum of both companies was worth significantly more than the purchase price. Think Instagram. Who would pay $1 billion for a company that made no revenue? The answer is a company that could leverage the content and make it more valuable. If Google buys Twitter, it needs to integrate Twitter, not assimilate it.
3. Integrate Reporting into the Social Ecosystem
The future needs to be robust social reporting through Google Analytics that seamlessly integrates into the ecosystem. That means Google should incorporate PostRank and SocialGrapple into the social media dashboard. This will open up new opportunities for marketing, will tap into an existing audience of users and, most importantly, provide value to businesses by giving them access to rich consumer data.
4. Monetize Content
Monetizing content can be achieved in three ways: One, allow advertisers to advertise within their social ecosystem, similar to how Gmail serves up useful and relevant ads to its users. Two, provide marketers with more relevant social consumer data so they can better spend their advertising dollars. Three, tag social content and turn it into contextual ads, as Google is currently doing with Google+ and Gmail.
5. Succeed in Social Marketing Attribution
Social utopia for marketers is the ability to understand and measure social advertising or content and how this directly impacts conversions or goals. This is the final frontier and something Facebook has been slow to provide, probably because poor results will impact advertising spend.
Attribution is beneficial to Google, as it has a larger advertising network, makes little from its social initiatives, and Facebook advertising revenue is growing. Google Analytics is currently doing this in beta. However we have to wait and see how robust the functionality will be and if this will be integrated into the larger social ecosystem. Social attribution would give marketers the best reason to spend their advertising budgets with Google, and significantly differentiate Google from Facebook.
6. Purchase a Significant or Niche Social Site
The purchase of Zagat, fflick, and Angstro were fairly small and didn’t have the growth impact of a much larger social platform. Some better bets are Yelp and LinkedIn. Here’s why.
Yelp is a good match for its high-quality content and loyal audience. Also, it might be a good deal because Yelp could run out of money before it gets in the black. If Google really wants to buy something of substance, LinkedIn would be an extremely expensive purchase but would give Google the world’s largest business network. The potential of this combined company would be greater than the sum of the purchase. LinkedIn’s explosive growth in hiring solutions alone could be detrimental to Monster and CareerBuilder.
Yes, there’s a downside in building out this social ecosystem, as it could be used to help grow Google’s competition. But Google’s strength is its ability to make money on data, and social “frenemies” are a business reality. Google is far from throwing an AOL/Time Warner Hail Mary, and the company’s success in mobile gives it a huge runway to figure this out. However, at some point, Google’s growth will slow and more nimble, aggressive companies will innovate faster.