I’ve been mulling over implications of the recent Facebook f8 news, and the imminent arrival of brands on Google+ recently, and I think we’re about to see a fundamental shift in what both social networks get used for.
Facebook is going to be all about richer and deeper relationships with fewer people, leaving Google+ to work fantastically for brands. And here’s why…
Much has been written about Facebook’s changes, but I think, that at the heart of them Facebook is planning to be an entertainment hub, with ‘real’ relationships at its heart. I think they’ve realised that the one thing people will pay for is shared experiences, where people connect on an emotional level. It’s why people go to the theatre or gigs together with friends. And Facebook’s recently announced partnerships with film, music and media brands bring ‘watercooler’ conversations into realtime – building on their experiences partnering news networks during major events.
Facebook is making it much easier for people who are already friends to share experiences across any geographical divide, and those experiences (watching films, even reading The Guardian) improve if your friends are doing them at the same time. (Perversely though, the stream of Spotify spam is just too much. Not everyone wants to know every song people listen to…)
Most brands, although they’ll try to (and I’ll happily help them), simply won’t be able to compete with genuine friends on an emotional level. They have to be in broadcast mode on Facebook. And already there’s evidence to suggest that brands are being edged out of newsfeeds. Brands are therefore going to find it harder to get cut-through on Facebook, unless their new apps help real people connect on an emotional level (as Netflix, Hulu , Spotify and The Guardian do). Just remember – there’s little or no financial incentive for Facebook to support any brand’s pages, compared to serving highly targeted ads. Why should they bother?
Google+, however, has it all to play for. People are used to a more ‘functional’ relationship with Google. And brands are used to obtaining fantastic data/analytics from Google, based on both visits and search. Both of these will be amplified significantly as brands are allowed to play with G+. But what’s more important is that Google+ has already built some incredible customer-service and social CRM tools into its offer. In particular, Circles enable subtle targeting based on what niche audiences might be interested in, and hangouts make it possible to do customer service and IM chat via video. And everything is searchable, by a trusted brand (currently dealing with fewer privacy issues than Facebook), which has recently recognised the importance of social recommendation.
I could go on, but the long and the short of it is that I see Facebook becoming the channel for chat amongst groups of genuine friends based on broad shared interests, and Google Plus becoming much more of the go-to destination for brand – customer relationships. Watch this space. Chapter one hasn’t even started yet….
[update – interesting post on The Wall blog, following a briefing from Facebook]