Is Facebook Beating Google at Its Own Game?
Until recently, Google has been the undeniable dominator in the online world. Billions of people rely on Google to find information quickly, read and exchange mail, and even market their businesses. To get your business seen by the masses online, you needed to make Google happy—either with great content and a solid ranking strategy or with raw advertising dollars. On the other side of the equation, Google preserved its name recognition and brand love by constantly rolling out new features, new technologies, and new mediums.
But now, there’s a new competitor, and so far it’s done a tremendous job of upstaging Google at its own game. Apple and Microsoft, Google’s two biggest and most direct competitors, are fiddling around with hardware and operating systems, but it’s Facebook that’s creeping up from behind the pack.
A Similar Background
What makes the comparison interesting is the humble beginnings of each application. Google started out as a simple service that built upon previous, incomplete services. Gradually, it became more widely adopted, and eventually, it rose to the top of its game. Then, realizing its influence, it started releasing new technologies and new ways to make money until it became a juggernaut known for far more than its original application.
If you think about it, Facebook followed the exact same path. Now, both companies are competing—I would argue directly—for more uses, more passionate users, and more opportunities to make money from consumers and businesses.
Don’t Leave the App
One of the biggest goals of each company is to prevent people from leaving the branded application. For example, Google tried launching Google+, a social media site that would allow users immediate functionality without ever straying too far from the Google homepage. Mapping, email, and a variety of other functions are still available here. But that isn’t enough for Google—it’s now improving its Knowledge Graph functionality to prevent users from ever needing to leave the SERPs, and introducing a “Google Shopping” feature with a built-in shopping cart so users can make purchases within the search app.
Facebook is attempting something similar. Its Messenger app is now seeking to align multiple different chat programs and social media applications, all in one packaged service, so you can chat with users of practically any other application within Facebook. It’s launched a service called Instant Articles, which allows publishers to feature their work directly on Facebook (rather than posting it natively and sharing the link). It’s even introduced its own form of allowing consumer purchases, and here’s the kicker—it’s created its own search engine. On the mobile app, users can search for a link to include in their status updates. It’s limited for now, but Facebook could easily expand in order to prevent more traffic from ever reaching Google.
Most of Google’s revenue comes through advertising, and Facebook is following that vision with its own advertising platform. While each platform has unique advantages and disadvantages, Facebook is playing up its strengths for the modern local businessman—greater customer insights, improved metrics and quality improvement opportunities, and a cheaper rate due to less competition. The quality and convenience of advertising could very well indicate the victor of this blown-out tech battle.
Tons of New Functions
The new functionality doesn’t stop there. One of Facebook’s newest innovations, Facebook M, claims to be a new kind of digital assistant, similar to Apple’s Siri or Google Now. Driven by both advanced intelligence algorithms and real human assistants, Facebook M is able to fulfill practically any reasonable user request within the Facebook Messenger app.
The more diverse this functionality becomes, the greater the level of direct competition each company will face. That is to say, the more similar to Google Facebook becomes, the more it becomes in the best interest of each company to outdo and outpace the other. Such a level of competition means faster rollouts of new technologies, more varied releases, and a requirement as marketers to stay on our toes and constantly aware of the next update.
Facebook’s Key Advantages
I wouldn’t argue that Facebook is beating Google at its own game just yet, but the makings are there for a fierce and unexpected competitor. Facebook already has access to far more user data than Google could ever dream. It knows its users friends, family members, moods, habits, thoughts, preferences, and behaviors. The only reason it hasn’t been leveraged more is the fact that big data analysis is still in its infancy. Once Facebook can fully harness the power of this information, it could have a major leg-up on Google.
It’s also worth mentioning that Google is facing threats on multiple other fronts. Yelp is threatening Google’s local results and local reviews. Bing and digital assistants are threatening its search traffic. And lawsuits all over Europe are threatening to break Google up into smaller companies due to antitrust violations.
What to Expect in the Future
Facebook still has a long way to go before it becomes capable of dethroning Google, but Google won’t back down easily. Over the course of the next decade or so, expect to see a flurry of new functionalities, new technologies, and new applications from both sides, in an ever-increasing rivalry. As a marketer, you can take advantage of this by getting involved on both platforms, using each for their greatest advantages and staying ahead of consumer trends so you always outpace your competitors.
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