Facebook Versus Google

No, this is not a review of Google+, and how it’s features are better or worse than Facebook’s. Nor is it a post on what Google+ means to marketers, etc.

Instead, it’s a rebuttal to a blog post published on the Customer Collective. According to the author of a blog post on that site, the author concludes that “This boxing match is over before it gets started: Facebook wins.” 

Here are reasons the Customer Collective (CC) gives for calling a TKO, with my take on the points.

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CC: Facebook is about staying connected with friends. Google is about making the world’s data searchable. Google is therefore not on solid ground.

My take: Facebook is about “staying connected with friends”? You must be joking. For thousands (if not millions) of companies, Facebook is about finding new customers, and connecting (or at least trying to connect) with existing customers. For Facebook, Facebook is about figuring how to monetize the vast traffic and engagement it has.

Google is about “making the world’s data searchable”? Ha. Google is about connecting advertisers to prospects. The common thread between FB and Google? Advertising. Both are on very solid ground when it comes to generating advertising revenue.

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CC: Google is already pervasive in our lives due to its dominance in search, email, collaboration, smartphone integration, and more. People are going to resent or ignore the company’s attempt to elbow out Facebook just like we resent it when one close friend tries to eliminate another one from our lives.

My take: A misinterpretation here. Facebook users’ connections are with other FB users — not with Facebook. Yes, Google is looking to elbow out Facebook. But the rest of the world doesn’t care about that.

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CC: Face it, Google: Social networking is not your thing.

My take: Oh, come on. PCs weren’t IBM’s thing, but (after some fumbling) it became very successful in the personal computing world. The web wasn’t Microsoft’s thing, but they adjusted. Writing off Google from social networking because of Wave and Buzz failures is a bit short-sighted.

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CC: Facebook stays focused on its core business for a reason – they really know what they’re doing.

My take: You’ve got to be kidding me. Facebook knows what it’s doing? It’s taken so many missteps (especially regarding data usage and privacy) that it’s to back up an argument that there’s a grand plan (other than “world dominance”) at Facebook. Forays into Facebook Credits (which is a damn good idea) is hardly about their “core” business of advertising, which accounts for, what, 95% of their revenue? And even if it were true that FB is “focused” on it core, and “knows what its’ doing” is hardly an argument for why the “boxing match is over before it begins.”

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CC: Last but not least, Google doesn’t seem to get that people actually care about privacy and worry about being tracked online, especially when it comes to their personal email.

My take: If the implication here is that Facebook does get that people care about privacy, then there is little that I’ve seen from Facebook that supports that contention.

———-

Bottom line: The boxing match is far from over. But it does seem that Google has a big task in front of it, if it wants to avoid getting Pownced.

I wonder if people even remember Pownce. Not long after I started using Twitter in 2007, Pownce was launched. It was a Twitter- like tool, with some additional features. While many of the people I followed (and who followed me back) registered with Pownce, it quickly became a game of Alphonse and Gaston: “Who’s ready to give up Twitter? You go first, Alphonse.  No, no, no — after you, Gaston. 

Nobody left, and and Pownce got bounced. 

The social media gurus have already jumped on Google + and conferred upon us their wisdom regarding the new networks’ features and implications for marketers and businesses. 

But the acid test is whether or not the masses change their behavior. And changing behavior is not easy, nor does it usually happen very fast. And it doesn’t matter if Google+ is better or not. We’re lazy. We don’t like to change. Unless we get paid to, or if the convenience we gain by changing is very noticeable.

A sample size of two isn’t very representative, I admit, but when I asked a 16 year-old and a 21-year old that I happen to know (for 16 years and 21 years, respectively) if they would switch to Google+, their response was identical: “Not unless all my friends do.”

The wildcard here is what businesses will do. If Google can entice businesses to launch brand pages, and if businesses can lure customers and prospects, then maybe the balance of power can be tipped. But it would seem to me that Google needs data to lure businesses, and without 100s of millions of users, won’t have the data. Chicken-and-egg problem. 

So, it’ll be a tough road for Google, but it’s way too early to call the winner. 

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Blinding Me With Science

Conventional wisdom holds that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” so we have metrics to help us manage our businesses.

And then there are Twitter-related metrics.

Meeyoung Cha from the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems looked at data from all 52 million Twitter accounts and determined that:

“The number of followers a Tweeter has is largely meaningless. Popular users who have a high number of followers are not necessarily influential in terms of spawning retweets or mentions,” she said. The more interesting question is how should one measure influence, she continues. Unfortunately there is no one easy answer to that, she says. “One would have to take a combination of many metrics, including follower count, mentions, and re-tweets. However the hard part is figuring out the relative importance of the component metrics.”

Cha is spot on that follower count isn’t important. But she’s wrong when she says that the hard part of measuring influence is “figuring out the relative importance of the component metrics.”

The hard part is figuring out what influence is. When you figure that out, then you can start arguing about how to measure it.

Social media analytics firm Sysomos conveniently avoids defining what influence is, and has developed a metric it calls the authority ranking: A score between 0 to 10 – with 10 signifying someone with very high reach and influence.

Social media “heavyweights” Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang have an average follower authority (an “AFA” if you want to sound cool) of 4.0 while Jason Falls’ AFA is 4.8, and Scott Stratten’s is 4.6.

I guess we’re to conclude that Jason and Scott are more influential than Chris and Jeremiah.

If they want to raise their AFA, Chris and Jeremiah can cull through their list of followers (139k for Chris, 65k for Jeremiah) and block those with a low AFA. And then, going forward, only allow people with a high AFA to follow them.  I can’t think of a bigger waste of time, or stupider thing to do.

I could be off-base here, but to me, influence is about shaping how people think and/or act, wouldn’t you agree?

If you do, then how in the world can you measure influence simply by looking at follower count or follower’s follower count, retweeting activity, or mentions? What does any of that have to with influence?

Answer: NOTHING. Those “metrics” have nothing to do with influence.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve DMed someone who has tweeted a link and asked “You believe that load of crap?” only to receive the reply “oh, I don’t believe it — I was just passing on the link.” If they don’t believe it, then they really weren’t influenced, were they? Nor are they being influential, because, apparently, they’re not trying to shape anyone’s thoughts or behaviors.

Most of these Twitter metrics are just pseudo-scientific stabs at establishing a system for score-keeping.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that you stop bragging about your follower count, influence ranking, or AFA score. Anything that helps you deal with your personal insecurities is OK in my book. But don’t try to blind me with your science. It’s not working.

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Social Media Measurement

If you haven’t read the Social Media Analytics report from Web Analytics Demystified and Altimeter Group, you should. It’s an excellent piece of work.

In fact, I plan on leveraging the work they’ve done (they encourage readers to utilize the framework under the concept of open research) in a social media research effort I’m launching with EFMA (European Financial Marketing Association). I’m going to use the framework to find out what financial firms are measuring, plan to measure, and how well they think they’re doing along the metrics defined in the framework.

I sat in on a webinar given by the authors of the report, John Lovett and Jeremiah Owyang, and I was struck — but really not surprised — by a comment that John made: No one vendor can pull together all the metrics defined within the framework. Not surprising at all, given the relative immaturity of social media tools and processes.

But here’s what it got me thinking:

At what point does the cost of measurement outweigh the benefits of measurement?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. That’s a load of crap. First off, how many things in the business world can we really manage, anyway? And of the things we measure, how accurate are those measurements, anyway? Please don’t spew mindless pablum at me.

Here’s the social media reality for 2010: You can’t measure everything, and you shouldn’t be. It’s too damn costly, and requires too much effort relative to the value you’ll get from doing it. Vendors may promise the moon, but at what cost? Considering the overall investment that social media represents as a percentage of the total marketing spend, there’s got to be a marketing measure more important to invest in.

My take: You’ve got to prioritize the metrics in the framework to figure out what to measure. Measuring what’s easy to measure is nice, but could backfire on you. If you start trumpeting the results of the metrics you can easily track — and those metrics aren’t tied to important business goals or bottom line business value — then you’ll be “lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground.”

Instead, do the following:

1. Use the framework to determine which business objective is most important, and identify the metrics that relate to that objective.

2.In addition, identify metrics that you think will best help you prove the value of social media investments to the firm. If showing senior management your “share of voice” doesn’t get them excited, it doesn’t fit here.

If the metrics you define in step #2 don’t align with the ones you defined in step #1, something’s wrong.

If you find yourself out of alignment, here’s my bet what’s causing it: Your firm doesn’t have clearly defined strategic objectives. There’s no beacon to follow. This is no longer a “social media measurement” problem. And that makes this a good point to end this post.

What FourSquare Means To Financial Institutions

The Financial Brand does an excellent job of putting FourSquare into perspective for financial services firms:

Most financial institutions are trying to push people out of branches — especially for routine interactions — by encouraging use of self-service channels. But a Foursquare promotion encourages exactly the opposite: frequent branch visits. If your financial institution builds a Foursquare promotion around mayors, you will be taking those who are highly wired, leading-edge, early adopter tech junkies and encouraging them to come into branches more often than they should.

Building a Foursquare promotion around the mayors of your locations may feel like the easiest and most obvious way to tap this social media platform, but it is probably the worst thing you can do. For starters, it really limits the promotion’s audience. There can be only one mayor at a time and there will likely never be more than 2-3 people who could possibly ever overtake him/her. So if you have five branches, a mayor-based promotion would mean something to only around 15 people.”

Banks and credit unions are missing the real lesson here: People like to play games. We like friendly competition, and we like to turn routine things into games to spice them up, make them a little more interesting.

So what should banks and credit unions do? Make a game out of interacting with the bank/CU. No, I don’t mean getting 5 points every time someone does some as meaningless as check their account balance.

But what about applying “game theory” to PFM usage? Construct a budget, get 50 points. Categorize your quarterly spending, get 50 points. Help someone else “in the network” set up their budget, get 250 points. Or more broadly, make a deposit into a savings account for more than $100, get 100 points. Give up paper statements, get 100 points. For every $10 you spend with your debit card, get 10 points.

Sound like a loyalty program? What in tarnation do you think Foursquare is? (Side note: Hypocrisy kills me. There are people who criticize rewards programs for “buying” loyalty instead of “earning” it, and then turn around and rave about some social media concoction like FourSquare).

The keys to success are: 1) Constructing a points scheme that rewards meaningful interactions and actions (this is why I keep harping on the importance of the concept of customer engagement, and how to measure it); 2) Making it social so people can see how they stand relative to everyone else, and to encourage some friendly competition; and 3) Integrating it with enterprise-wide marketing efforts.

Of course, if you prefer publicity over profits, feel free to pursue that Foursquare promotion.