A few months ago I wrote a very positive blog on Google+ and on how this channel was going to be much more significant to businesses than Facebook. Generally, I remain of the same opinion that in relation especially to content management and SEO there is no doubt that a Google+ presence is infinitely superior to a Facebook one, from a business perspective, but perhaps not in terms of general audience engagement as I am trying to explain.
On this particular count Google+ has consistently failed to create sufficient ‘buzz’ and to attract a lively level of engagement in any way similar to the one of Facebook. At least away from specialist B2B sectors, such as IT or similar, or in the few instances where brand new communities, that previously may not have existed on other social media channels were set up first on Google+.
The reasons for this lack of traction from Google+ are really quite simple and as ever are based on sociology and psychology, rather than just technology. Let’s look at how most of us interact across our personal social media channels. I bet you that most of you have a personal Facebook account in which you have gathered the usual motley crowd of ‘friends’. It doesn’t matter whether you are a passive reader of status updates or an active contributor, you are highly likely to be on Facebook as this was one of the first social media channels of this kind. When you looked for old friends, or old flames, you instinctively searched on Facebook (way before you would have gone on Friends Reunited, do you remember that?). I bet that even if you did so now I very much doubt you’d first check them out on Google+. So, from a purely social perspective at least Facebook wins, by far, but as of late the battle has become even more fierce from a business angle.
Creating a good Facebook company page takes a matter of minutes, including very high levels of customisation. More importantly, finding appropriate audiences to advertise an update or to acquire ‘likes’ is a doddle. With Facebook in just a few clicks you can search exactly for the geographical area, interest, gender and more, targeting your advert as accurately as possible. This is not just because over the years Facebook has polished and enhanced its database exponentially, but also because they were clever enough to create a highly intuitive and user friendly interface. Try comparing this with Google AdWord for example and not even Adword Express (apparently designed for small businesses) comes anywhere near to the ease of use of Facebook. Beside, creating an advert on Google will simply expose you to the might of the competition and unless you’ve very deep pockets you are likely to see little benefits from it, when you could just as easily achieve similar results with some high quality content management for example. On the other hand, Facebook can expose your brand to a well segmented audience, but it’s fair to say that this kind of audience may not be appropriate for specialist B2B sectors being much more potentially rewarding to consumer brands or campaign organisations instead.
So who wins? Well in the end it’s the usual story of finding the right channel for you, one relevant to your audience. However, in terms of usability and B2C engagement, despite the growing number of Google+ users, Facebook wins.
I conclude with some anecdotal evidence. A year or so ago, when Google+ came out, I asked all my Facebook friends if they would consider joining me on that channel. Only one out of 200 replied in the affirmative. Maybe I don’t have very good friends, but I suspect that most people are simply used to Facebook. They have it on their smartphone, is bookmarked on their PC or laptop and they too have all their friends there who are equally unwilling to move. How could they possibly consider switching over then?
It’s blindingly obvious that social media is inextricably linked to day to day social interactions. Therefore, if you have been going to your local hostelry for several years and you suddenly decide to defect somewhere else, you’d probably end up drinking on your own at first, until you created another group in that specific location. It’s just the same for social media channels.
This situation might change only in the light of some huge privacy cock up from Facebook, or if there were more freely available and easy to use tools that allowed you to share the same content initially across several platform, without losing the user experience of Facebook. Maybe one day we will be faced with two very serious contenders, but for now Facebook remains in the lead.