Is Google Bad at Social Media or Really, Really Good at it?

It's in the Google Account, Not the Individual Products

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Google often takes a lot of flack for not being incredibly successful with its social media efforts. Most recently, Caroline McCarthy and Tom Krazit tackled this subject in a CNET article claiming that "Google struggles with social skills." I would not go so far as to say that I completely disagree with them. They make plenty of factual points that are simply undeniable. Orkut hasn’t set the world afire. Jaiku and Dodgeball didn’t work out. YouTube was pretty much established by the time Google bought it, and even since it has not been the financial success many would have assumes it would be, despite its enormous popularity.

Is it that Google doesn’t do well with social media or is it that Google is doing better at it than most people even consider. First, you have to ask yourself: what is a social network anyway? What is social media? Is it Facebook? MySpace? Twitter? Is it a network of connected people? Google Profile users can look at their "social circles" and quickly realize that Google has them connected to people.

If you look at the definitions for social media, you get things like "content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies," "a category of sites that is based on user participation and user-generated content." I think Google has done pretty well at indexing and monetizing user-generated content (that is if user means user of Google, which essentially makes the majority of all content user-generated).

When you compare Google to Facebook, wouldn’t it be fairer to break down Google by its various offerings? Wouldn’t it be fairer to compare Google itself to Facebook? You can say, well, Google Friend Connect isn’t as successful as Facebook. Jaiku wasn’t as successful as Facebook. Wouldn’t it make more sense to chalk each of these offerings within Google as features of the broader Google network, for all intents and pruposes?

Most of Google’s products require one account. You log in to your Google account and there are a lot of different things you are able to do, and it’s all because of that one account. You can email people, chat, write documents and spreadsheets, use webmaster tools, etc., etc., etc. Is Google not just a social network with a lot more features than most others (not to mention what many would consider to be a better search tool than most other social networks)?

Google Products

Is Google’s "failure" at social media due to not having a proper Twitter-like stream (which Facebook essentially took and ran with by the way)? Maybe Google doesn’t have the best feature in every social media category, but I think they’ve pretty much taken the cake in some categories, and last I checked, Google is pretty successful.

I write this not as some kind of Google fanboy, but each day, I see Google launching new products and features, finding new things for users to do, and particularly for those who have a Google account. A lot of what you can do with various Google products requires you to be logged in. A lot of it is very social (profiles, social search, real-time search, document sharing, Google reader sharing and commenting, emailing, chatting, Google latitude…just to name a few). Maybe we should consider the sum of all users across all of the company’s products to determine just how successful it is at this so-called “social media”. Google makes money. Crazy money.  I wonder how many people have Google accounts.

Note: For the record, I understand that nobody’s saying Google itself isn’t succesful.

Is Google really not good at social media? I’ll ask again, what is social media really? We tend to put these labels on things, but I don’t think it’s so black and white.

Related Articles:

Google Luring More Account Users with New News Feature?

Integration – The Key to Google as a Social Network

Is Gmail Google’s Real Social Network?

Is Google Bad at Social Media or Really, Really Good at it?
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  • http://www.gatewaybizdev.com ElizabethL

    Couldn’t agree more!! Google just doesn’t use the obvious social media strategies – that companies is so much wiser than many people that it can dominate the social media world without people even noticing.

    • Chris Crum

      I think it really shows just how broad terms like “social media” and “social networking” are. We tend to think about the obvious sites, and not always about just how connected many parts of our online lives are.

  • http://digitivity.org Digitivity

    I think what you say is right to an extent, but Google doesn’t seem to have seemlessly tied all of its products together.

    For example, when people are on Facebook, they’re “on Facebook”. When people use Google docs, or YouTube, and then do a search, and look something up on a map, I think they view those as discrete activities.

    I think if Google were too active in “tying” these products, it might attract anti-trust attention. But what about Facebook, which now accounts for 25% of clicks in the US? It’s OK for Facebook to be a walled garden, but not Google?

    • Chris Crum

      Perhaps the fact that not all Google products are seamlessly tied together is part of Google’s brilliant strategy of creating a huge network without people even thinking about it that way.

      • http://www.sitebyjames.com James

        Agreed… I mean they pretty much have open access to twitter, both from a crawler perspective and an analytics perspective.

        Considering Google doesn’t really charge for much, It pretty much owns half of the social networks out there anyways…

  • http://make-money-by-writing.blogspot.com/2009/12/here-i-am-going-to-tell-you-about.html AK@Make Money Online Just by Writing Articles

    Got your point and I’m sure Google will give even more attention to some of its services like Knol etc.

  • Karthi Keyan

    Google can buy anything that exists. But it can not create an awesome product from scratch. If we research little deeper about each and every products of it (maps, docs, youtube, orkut, reader, books, jaiku, nexusone(concept), chrome(concept) & more)

    were actually bought from someone or some other company. I believe, Google lacks in creativity and innovation.

  • Cursor_

    The main reason that Google has not swept over and become a social network giant is two fold.

    First is Trust.

    People still do not trust Google. Their mantra of “Do No Evil” is still not widely accepted. This is because of how they position themselves. From censoring their searches in despotic nations, to tracking your movements through your Google history and the chrome browser so they can market you. Is this really building trust?

    Now Facebook does that and I am sure Twitter is watching you too so they can sell you as well. But these only do one thing at a time. Google is doing it over your email (which is not personal since we learned that in the China Fiasco that they have a backdoor for the government), what books in their books service you use, your shopping searches, what sites you visit or don’t visit, your docs, any and every information you stick in under their vast umbrella. All of it can very very clearly be tracked and they can make a very accurate profile of who you are and what you do and how you spent your money.

    And that brings up the second flaw.

    They have too many services that are not always utilised. Honestly, unless you are a Google evangelist, you do not and cannot use all the resources that Google has. And it is really not as tied in as it could be. If I do a search on some topic I get web sites and then have to click on their other drill down links to get to those.

    I’ll give you an example (That doesn’t use private data).

    I am searching for best digital SLR techniques for wildlife photography. Would it not be useful to have not only weighted search results of websites (which is not done well) as well as their books that were scanned that talk about the topic and their scholarly articles, images of people that do this kind of photography and discussions of people interested in such topics where you might be able to get tips? All of it weighted towards this? What if there was a book that had more info then some website? Shouldn’t it come to the forefront?

    This is Google’s problem. They take a scatter shot approach. They lack focus and so it is all a mishmash with the user wondering well what link is best to click on? And none of the above NEEDS personal tracking. Just the amount of users clicking onto the resources over x period of time would be enough to weigh the results. No IPs need be databased, no browser stats, nothing.

    These are the things that make Google lose out. They are all so enamoured with their cleverness that they forget the simple things that people need. They also forget that people don’t like to be followed and hovered over like a teacher looking over your shoulder. Like most people, they forget that the internet is nothing more than an extension of human life. The use of these methods of search, social interaction and creation/sharing of knowledge is no different than when we moved to books, newsprint, telegraph, telephone, radio and TV. It is still all forms of communication and dissemination of information. That is what humans do.


  • http://creatiefpartners.com V

    I guess Google doesn’t care much about including that streamline in the search result. what it concentrate is only to give the most generic result for keywords. May it social networking, social bookmarking, articles or websites….

  • http://www.LasVegasActs.com Las Vegas Singing Comedian Show

    While google is by FAR the king of the search engines. What is scary is that the Google has just made a major deal with the Government(USA/DHS/FBI/TSA) to share ALL information on users. While it seems innocent.. and as far as tracking terrorists it is almost essential, yet…. this is just a small incremental step in the government/Obama takeover of the entire system. Just one or two more attacks and it will become a ‘done deal.’

    If you’ve seen the CNBC special ‘Inside the mind of Google’ you’ll know this is not a stretch of the imagination. This is real life, admitted by Google. The ‘God’ of the internet.

    OR….. are the 1,002 Singer and Celebrity Voices in my head just driving me crazy?? Come to my show in Las Vegas to find out for yourself!
    Enter discount code ‘241’ for half priced tickets. http://www.larrygjones.com

  • https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?ii=611754&c=ib&aff=104367&cl=104311 Adsense 4 Domains

    Goolge seem harder with more social media growth today, but i belive if the social media give some benefit to all, google will make some consideration

  • http://www.chipvongunten.com Chip

    While we can bet that internet tools will vary in comprehensiveness and scope, viability and relevance, it is still up to us, the individual user, to manage our personal internet brand, out there in the cloud. I think that Google is in the forefront for this. All others will follow.

  • http://www.mukulverma.com Mukul Verma

    Like you defined it above. Google searches are user generated content, so you would have to give them credit for that. Maybe they did not invent it, however are doing a version of it. Now with wide wiki, that is more so the case.


  • http://www.big-shopsite.com Jorge

    I Think Is realy good for social Media.

  • http://kthxbai2u.com kthxbai2u

    I wrote this comment to let you know, I have read your entire article! I think it is very well written. Even I use a lot of Google’s services, including the webmaster tools :) Google provides great services, for the webmaster AND the average joe. Although I hate how big and ignorant they are getting, they still provide great services and applications!

  • http://www.cat-lovers-only.com Kurt Schmitt

    I don’t know if “bad” at social media is how I’d put it. I think it depends upon how you define success, and how you define social media (as you’ve stated). It also depends upon your perspective.

    I think that for most website owners, Twitter is probably not a big driver of new visitors (or sales, for that matter). I doubt that Facebook is either. There are exceptions, but I think most “average” site owners would do much better to have top SE placement for a hot keyword than 500 followers on Twitter. From that perspective, Google’s collection of tools are far more useful and effective for the website owner.

  • Guest

    I have huge problems with Google expansionism. Google aready attempts to control way too much what people can or can not do with their websites, though admittedly some of their rules to be listed or gain page rank are legitimate. However, Google is notoriously guilty for violating it’s own rules and policies when it serves the bottom line.

    One example is popups and adware. Google bought Doubleclick and has been using it for sometime now. Doubleclick leaves a tracking cookie on your PC each time you visit a website running Adsense ads. Google does not penalize companies like Microsoft who uses popups AND popunders everytime you visit MSN.com or other companies doing the same, but smaller websites the penalties Google may apply to SERPS or page rank can knock smaller websites out of business for doing the same thing the big guys do.

    Google has fallen to corporate greed. Expansionism into social media would not serve the interests of the consumer at all. Continued expansionism would result in another AIG like company so big that it can not be allowed to fail without destroying the entire US economy and degrading the world wide economy.

  • http://www.livetrainingsession.com Dreamweaver CS4 training Online

    Google is really good at social media it’s just because the tools its offering are mostly for serious users unlike other social media originally oriented towards a demographic that just need to connect to cheat chat. The tally of how many people use the tools offered by Google will show that the big G is way past the other two in terms of connecting people.
    Besides there is a difference between social networks in terms of target demographic: age, occupation, interests and more. Google search engine has allowed all internet users to connect, share information, do business.

  • http://best-seo.org best seo

    I understand you point of view, however Google is dramatically different from these shooting stars. Facebook, Twitter etc. will pass, Google will stay. A kind of social media will resist, but who knows what will be the next trend? That will depend of lots of variables, context, casual factors. IMO, the today social media monsters are giants with clay legs, their core isn

  • http://www.independentcomputerconsultant.com computer consultant

    Give Google sometime and they will be ahead of many. They got plenty of $ to spend.

  • http://www.1bnet.de Stephan

    google is related for SMM

  • http://www.savewareworkspace.com Guest

    To just give my experience. I have had a hard time wanting to log into google every day. I don’t do that on facebook. But I don’t get a message to my email saying somebody just posted on your wall at google like I do with facebook. So I use facebook a lot as it keeps reminding me to do so.

    My family got together on facebook and I found old classmates and friends with it. Maybe there is different facets of being social but that is what I use facebook for and also a group for my products.

    facebook is easy to get started with and showed me it’s usefulness so I signed up when my niece sent me a request from facebook to join. Google dose not seem to be what I need although it may have what i need, it dose not present it to me that I take notice like facebook has dose. As I go I find facebook more fun and now also useful for my business. Easy to search for people. They all seem to flock there, in the hopes an old friend finds them. Google has a lot, but I never seem to feel like I want to take the time out to learn it all. Facebook has somehow crept into my life and I learn as I go.

    I like Google and Facebook both but for different reasons. I gave up tweeting, just could not get the meaning in my messages across in such a short line of text. So the wall on facebook was important to me. I love Google. If they just had a easy to use and strait forward approach like facebook I would go sign up right away to googlebook if they had one.

    I just come here for the CAPTCHA math questions.
    I read the instructions and think I got them all right so far, lol.

  • I am a guest!!!!

    Eric Schmidt has gone on record saying that social media isn’t very profitable, which is why they haven’t aggressively pursued it. Social Network monetization entails taking pieces of information about people such as profile attributes, interests and contents of communications and trying to display relevant ads. A search engine is a much more direct approach to relevant advertising, which is why Google went for YouTube – it contains search-able media. Not to mention the fact that Google has already monetized Gmail, harvesting the content of your private emails to display relevant ads. You could say that they realized communication harvesting is an ineffective means to determining a persons consumer-oriented interests.

  • Guest

    Youtube turned into a fucking disgrace and a Fail of a website ever since Google Bought it. FUCK GOOGLE

  • Guest

    Like all computing: Rubbish in: Rubbish out.

    Google is only as good as the search data you feed it. Some of the search responses are obscure, but that is no different to AOL, or any other search enginges available on the internet, including the likes of “Ask Jeeves” etc.

    Whilst I may be deemed to be a technophobe, I can’t help thinking that we have reached the stage now where the computer controls the human, not the human controlling the computer.
    How many times have we called a sales or support centre to be put on hold by a computer to wait up 45 minuets to speak to a human. The other gem is being giving a list of options from a menu, none of which have any bearing to the nature of the problem. Only to find that there is no access to a human at all.

    It is perhaps ironic that we frown upon battery farming, particularly egg production and the growing of birds for consumption; and yet that is exactly what we are doing to ourselves.


  • http://technochase.com/ Bogcess

    The various things you could do with google is endless! As a webmaster, I find the unified account very useful.

  • http://catholic.nl Guest

    I totaly agree with what you wrote on this subject but does this mean that maybe with seo we should tie as many things into our domains or? Thanks for all of your great articles. Bo Machos

  • Guest

    Google is very successful with their search engine, but they seriously lack innovation. They didn’t bring in any successfull product that is not a copy of something else or bought from someone.

  • http://www.exigo.com.br Peter (IMC)

    Maybe you

  • Sunny

    I love Google! It cannot be compared to Facebook, at all! Facebook is about everyone getting into everyone’s buiness and sometimes people even get hurt. I was in Facebook for just a few months and found the format and their “farm games”, etc a major waste of time! I’d rather sing in SingSnap… which is the best social network around the www and the best friends too!

  • http://www.livingstonupc.com C. Harris

    Thanks for the article. Very interesting to think how broad Google’s reach really is in social media.

  • http://www.business1directory.com Business1Directory

    I think you are right Google could do more for social networking and I hope thiey will look at how they see social networking it is a very important part of of owning an online website and blogs.




    A Different way of Listing your site

  • http://www.fastklean.co.uk antoaneta tsocheva

    i liked what i read, it was very useful, and i will definetely use the tip for my website http://www.fastklean.co.uk


  • http://uprightvacuumcleanerinfo.com/ Ak

    Google has become such a behemoth that it is sometimes easy to forget that it is a website. As far as social media goes there is definitely room for improvement, though I am kind of bias. I really only use google, so as you said I like the cool stuff they come out with on a regular basis. Anyway that’s my 2 cents. Great post!

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