Is Google Playing Rope-A-Dope With Social Media?

Go ahead, Microsoft, wear yourself out

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Regarding social media, the best you can say about Google is that the company has merely dabbled in it. Google’s absence in this space becomes as glaring as Godot’s when chief rival Microsoft is busy funneling money toward the hottest new products, products created even by former Googlers.

That leaves us with two options: Google’s either planning something or avoiding it altogether. Recent events—or maybe better, non-events—suggest the latter.
Rope A Dope
Google’s become much better in the past year or so at keeping big secrets and then dropping them kind of Apple style on mouth-agape crowds. One supposes Google’s apparent pullback and nonparticipation in the social media craze suggests something major on the horizon.

But that’s just a pipe dream. Google seems more interested lately in cooling its jets, saving money, and wrestling with telcos in DC over highly complex network issues affecting some grand consequence fairly far down the road. My hunch is that Google is more concerned about actual networks, not social ones. Actual networks are expensive, not subject to faddish whims, and in the long term offer tremendous leverage to those who control them. Remember all that dark fiber? All that hardball over spectrum? All those enraged telecom executives?

But that’s another article, actually one I’ve written several times.

Google’s history with social networking isn’t a very good one. You’ve heard of Orkut, Google’s social network, only if you’re one of three people: an Indian, a Brazilian, or somebody who follows Google’s every little move.

The company had the opportunity to buy MySpace for half what News Corp. paid. The Big 3 (Schmidt, Page, Brin) thought they could do better and said so. We’re still waiting for that, and in the meantime Google spent twice what News Corp. paid to serve search ads to MySpace, a bum deal Google’s not going to renew.

And YouTube, the most visited video site on the net, a worldwide phenomenon and cherished source of user-generated content, is a money pit that got them sued by Viacom for a billion dollars. 

Given just that short history of being either unimpressed, ineffective, or royally screwed over, it shouldn’t be that surprising Google’s sitting out the social networking thing lately. Plus, sensing the economic crunch knocking at ad revenue doors, Schmidt has already said the master plan at the moment is to sit on the money, maybe swim around in it ala Scrooge McDuck.

What about Googler-created Twitter? Schmidt remains unimpressed with the “poor man’s email system,” though parts of the company are playing along via Twitter accounts among murmurs of realtime search and customer resource management. What they’re not doing is sponsoring stuff there, unlike Microsoft. They’re also not pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars into Facebook—like Microsoft has done.

Maybe Google’s playing Rope-a-Dope. Let Microsoft spend its money. Let social networks expend their energy trying to figure out a way to monetize. Let all of them plow through their resources. When they figure it out, we’ll jump in. That’s certainly what Wall Street analysts are advising, too.

Or maybe they’re just really not interested.

>>> Agree, disagree or otherwise comment below…

Is Google playing Rope-a-Dope with social media?


Is Google Playing Rope-A-Dope With Social Media?
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  • http://www.marketappeal.co.uk/ SEO Alchemist

    Given that Google after two years still can’t monetise MySpace or Youtube effectively, despite their Midas touch elsewhere, who can blame them for sitting round two out, after all they’ve already learned the hard way that social media page views rarely equate to advertising dollars, even though Google search is a goldmine.

  • http://www.thekunit.com/ Kelvin Kang

    My theory is that Google recognizes that social networking is not a feature but rather an essential part of “infrastructure” of a site if you will. Any site that wants to build any sort of community needs a social network of sorts. Looking at Google, it has very many similar core features that Facebook has. It just doesn’t seem to have made any overt gestures to try to imply that they’re tied together. I wrote a somewhat simplistic view of Google as a Killer platform here: http://www.thekunit.com/post/2009/02/17/Why-Google-is-THE-Killer-Platform.aspx.

  • http://scalableintimacy.com Michael Troiano

    I think Danny Sullivan got this exactly right: http://searchengineland.com/google-the-stealth-social-network-13027

    Two ways to boil a frog. I think Google is turning up the heat slowly on us all, even as we speak…

  • http://optawise.com Scott Wiseman Google Marketing Expert

    I think Google is so busy making Billions of dollars that it is just waiting to see what happens next. Remember the DOT Bust? Just poor money at it. NOPE. Give people what they want for free. Then Change people to advertise on it.

    Just my $20 bucks worth of info.

    • Joseph

      Nope, VOIP BABY@

  • Guest

    I would say FriendConnect is a start and I think Google are looking to use Social in ways that most SEOs obsessed with links don’t/won’t get until they realize they are a day late and a dollar short. Twitter is likely 1M SEOs each with 10 accounts. Remeber with doubleclick and their own network they are collecting an unreal amount of data about your interests. When G bought DC I knew it had zero to do with the revenue it’s ll about tracking your every move. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Facebook is for losers with nothing better to do while killing time at work.

    Too many SEOs treat Social like they did directories. To most of them a Social profile might as well be a stall in a public washroom. I actually read an SEO touting his strategy that entailed using 30 twitter accounts to trick people into following him. Lame, stupid stuff that is why the industry is regarded by “normal” marketers as… less than on the up and up.

    The industry so overhypes everything it is getting to the point of rediculous. None of this Social is proven (Google basically said MySpace was a bust) because most of the time it is extremely hard to track “branding” and these techniques are so new if they were human they’d still be shitting in diapers and spiutting up on your shoulder after every meal!

    Like all of the “technological innovation” that has changed the web, it will be the small niche “Social” sites that will eventually suck all the juice and get the most traction for marketers. In that regards, Google FriendConnect, Search Api and more I can’t think of will be adopted by these communities.

  • Joseph

    Guys, Gals,

    Google is ABOUT to own the VOIP market….

    Anyone see Google Voice?

    How this for “social”


    Google number – One number for all your calls and SMS

    * Call screening – Announce and screen callers
    * Listen in – Listen before taking a call
    * Block calls – Keep unwanted callers at bay
    * SMS – Send, receive, and store SMS
    * Place calls – Call US numbers for free
    * Taking calls – Answer on any of your phones
    * Phone routing – Phones ring based on who calls
    * Forwarding phones – Add phones and decide which ring

    Google voicemail – Voicemail as easy as email, with transcripts

    * Voicemail transcripts – Read what your voicemail says
    * Listen to voicemail – Check online or from your phone
    * Notifications – Receive voicemails via email or SMS
    * Personalize greeting – Vary greetings by caller
    * Share voicemail – Forward or download voicemails

    Voice features – More cool things you can do with Google Voice

    * Conference calling – Join people into a single call
    * Call record – Record calls and store them online
    * Call switch – Switch phones during a call
    * Mobile site – View your inbox from your mobile
    * GOOG-411 – Check directory assistance
    * Manage groups – Set preferences by group

  • Guest

    To monetise you have to start with it and then build around it, wait for bainzy.com, this site launching shortly will open the eyes of social networking CEOs but by copying not only will they lose face they will also lose their space.

    Bainzy.com 3 tier, 3rd generation classified social networking market place, completely differnt where sophisticated technologies have been made ever so simple….Hold on to your hats… Whey Hay Bainzy….

  • http://www.rentals365.com Rob

    IMO, there is too much of this social media ****. For a company, it just means another website that you HAVE to get involved in, and another load of time taken up. I say, you HAVE to do it, because when you see your competitors doing it – you feel left out if you don’t join in.

    If the social network sites disappeared tomorrow, I would not miss them at all.

    Comparing the social media frenzied bubble to another frenzied bubble (that has just burst), makes me think that something has got to give. They all find it difficult to make money – so they are not going to be funded forever – with the prospect no return. If I had shares in these, I would get out now while the going is good.

    Google – love em or hate em, certainly seem to know what they are doing. Well, apart from buying Youtube anyway.

    • Joseph

      I have to agree with you as well, I also think that “twiiter” (AFTER getting $35+ million in startup funding) will soon be crying like youtube that they cant make money.

      They have been online for like more then a year and and still haven’t made money…..to late ….they just missed the boat…I will call it now, bookmark my response.

      Twitter wont make money…..

  • http://www.patrickmcmurray.com Guest

    It worked for Ali, a lot can be said for wise observation, fools rush in, you know the rest

  • http://www.rankontoponline.com rankontoponline

    Domination is one thing, But cutting cost and maximizing results in a time of resession is the main key.

    Google layed off 200 workers this week. Why? bottom line.
    money saved?, couple mill.

    They also patened thier search criteria a couple of weeks ago.

    Any ways. expected Big announcement in about 5 months.

    Have fun cut your costs and your bottom line to maxinize your Dollar!

    • http://homebusinesshints.com Chuck Anthony

      Must agree with you, “rank”. Anyway, the only thing that matters (to me) is the stock price. For Google what matters is revenue growth, operating expense and profit margin. And hey look; never mind 200 workers laid off–most were sales & marketing people… Google’s still hiring: 360 job openings to be exact. Reuters Article dated 3/27/09: http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idINN2729795820090327?rpc=44 … Any software engineers need a job?

  • http://www.green-trust.org Steve Spence

    Users like social media because it’s free. Where’s the money? Advertising? Not a good bet.

  • http://vintagerosecollectibles.chshops.com Barbara

    Well in my opinion it really doesn’t matter if they are keeping a secret. Isn’t that what secrets are all about, just secrets? I hope they do, I happen to like google and all the good things they do. So they are making money, isn’t that whats it all about? If I had their brains, their know-how I would be right where they are. Keep up the good work google, and you too microsoft
    Nothing is really free, it just sounds good. It allows you to test the waters and if you like it and can afford it, then jump on in the water is fine.
    We came a long way since the internet started, where would we be if there wasn’t a google, a mocrosoft, yahoo, firefox and all the rest. I take my hats off to them, they earn their keep. Now of course please don’t bombard me after all it is my opinion and take what you want and leave the rest. :)

  • http://www.allabout-travel.com Mike Vela

    I saw Marissa Mayer, V.P. of Search Product and User Experience, Google on Charlie Rose not too long ago. She said they have a social media program that for reasons did not take off here, but is huge in India and Brizal.

    On social networking, she admits Google

  • http://the-system.org The System

    Sure google is interested in social – its interested in developing universal search for universal desktop that incorporates all your social media feeds. It’s also interested in all types of social media content for it’s serps algo!
    I’m Interested to hear how it intends to dominate physical networks and telephone companies. It’s all part of convergence which you can read about at my blog!

  • Lauren Caruso

    Google has some of the smartest and greediest people staffed……obviously. In my experience, being an online marketer for 5+ years Google doesn’t miss a beat. Make no mistake…..they will stake their claim.

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Debbie Morgan

    I’m on lots of social networks to socially market my safety and security web site. Whether Google gets into the game or not won’t change much for me except maybe make it better. Thanks, Jason, for the disussion fodder!

  • http://www.ebookliving.com Marsha

    As long as there’s no profit and most social media is free, Google has no intention of playing in that sandbox.

    Social media converts badly for Adsense and some big bloggers have no idea how to monetize their blogs to avoid general traffic that doesn’t convert to clicks.

    Massive traffic is no good if you don’t have a plan of how to filter it for profitability and direct it buy something.

    Maybe the major players should hire an affiliate marketer to work on the next big social network idea. Someone who drives traffic for profit, instead of someone who just drives traffic.

    • http://www.iconic-comunicacion.com Iconic Comunicacion

      I agree with Marsha,

      Please, let’s remember the days when Google had not figured our its business plan…after they were born, they spent 3 years with no monetizing a single buck at all. Then came AdWords and it saved their lives…
      I think what it is happening right now, it is much of the same…they do not see clear the business plan to monetize these different social networks. If they find one, they will jump like tigers on it…do not worry, they will not hesitate and I guess this jump will come in the form of advertisment.
      They have better ways to collect money…I think they are going after Google maps effects on revenues for the next years if mobiles do lift off as it is guessed…we will wait and see.

      Congrats for all the good comments posted!!

  • http://truxtertech.com/news TruXter

    I think google is not interested. I am pretty sure they have a plan and are sticking to it.
    They are a data company. soon to be a research and information company.
    The day that google sponsor’s you grocery “preferred shopper” card, is the day you might realize what’s going on.
    Yes the information helps them better market advertisement on you, but before this. when someone wanted to find dirt on you, they had 100 places to go to get the info.
    Now, they have your phone, your web browser, your search engine, some laptops..

    It’s like watching a train wreck while you see hundreds getting in line to ride that stupid train oblivious to what’s about to happen.

    Then again, them opening a social site, will just be more bait to get you in the trap.

  • guest

    I think Orkut, is one of the best social networks that exists, although it’s been tightened up a bit. I think it’s far more user friendly than any of the others.

  • http://CommonSenseLiving.com Carole

    Personally I think Google is being very smart. Thsi whole social networking thing hasn’t worked out the way it was planned – flooded with marketers manipulating the system – abused, ineffective, unproductive, should I go on? The people who started using the social networks have become bored and barely sign in anymore. It’s already dying. Anyone have the next big thing?

    Google is very smart to stick with what works.

  • http://CommonSenseLiving.com Carole

    Just wanted to add – that personalized search… I hate it. as a consumer I hate it. Somehow they are not very good at guessing what I want. I think that’s going to be a big mistake for Google.

    OK, that’s 4 cents….

    • http://www.webs-seo.com xavi

      I think the same. i don`t like “bigbrothers”

  • http://www.monkeezemarketing.com Marvin

    Many comments suggest that Google has taken a wait and see attitude. This seems to be a very reasonable approach in the face of the facts.

    It’s true that social networks may indeed be trendy things with a short life. I however have no that doubt social networking in some incarnation will be integrated into the next generation of web 2.+++ etc.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that Google is waiting to see how all this shakes out. Clearly if there were an advantage to be in this race they would have done so early on. Perhaps they are simply waiting to see who crossed the finish first and then show up one sunny morning cheque book in hand.

    If on the other hand social networking does die an untimely death, Google will have lost nothing. When you have deep pockets it changes how you play the game.

  • http://www.firmalatter.dk/latterkurser-og-workshops/latterkursus.htm Ejvind

    If we think Google has to come up with something everytime someone has had a good idea, then we are stating to compare them with Microsoft – the biggest, baddest software company in the world ๐Ÿ˜‰
    As a matter of fact oogle does have lots of features like the social networks, but they are not directed towards socializing with others, but more towards contacting and selling to others. In this way I think Google is more of a business network of its own kind.

    • http://www.melbourneonline.com.au Mark – Melbourne Website Development

      Google is a search engine. Search is the backbone of their business. Social networks come and go.
      I’m guessing that Google are scared to jump on the social network bandwagon because they know that after a couple of boom years social users will flock to the NEXT social network and, potentially, take with them their search queries.
      Google cannot afford to lose those search queries and they do not NEED social networking to survive. And if ever a day does come that they need to give results from social networking, they will need access to ALL social networks – access which will probably not be given if they are pushing their own social site.

  • http://www.yiwu-sourcing-agent.com Yiwu

    Twitter is so good, but why can stand out in China?

  • http://www.alanya-site.com Bryan Quinn

    This is difficult to establish. I believe they are hanging back because of the recession and the infrastructure changes that they will need.

  • http://www.bc-media.co.uk Ecommerce Web Design

    I think Google is probably just holding back. Facebook and the likes don’t really generate much revenue in comparison to their usage where as Google pretty much rules the internet & will continue to do so in the future (IMO).
    As such it makes sense for them to invest in foundation stuff such as networks as opposed to more ’emperors clothes’.

  • http://www.autoakseeds.com jj

    would not suprise me at all

  • http://www.hostacuity.com SEO Acuity

    They might be good at search but they are weak at everything else so they are forced to buy most of the creativity. Several departing webmasters/designers from Google have stated they design and decide from user stats only which has merit but look and feel have an important part IMHO.

  • http://www.daxii.com Ask & Answer

    Maybe google is ‘secretly’ already a partner with a huge social network myspace, facebook

  • http://learnsearchengineoptimization.com Chandrakant

    Social media or Search Engine or something else?

    Google or Microsoft or any other corporate?

    There is no big difference for us. We must think about

  • http://www.bangmp3.com Bang MP3!

    Nice article….
    yes as you said, whatever ship they build, we will jump on it to claim our share!

  • http://www.cars4rents.com sameer

    I wonder why in yahoo search you can find in the first page always,
    in google unfortunatily even I could not find my web, even many unfair things happend, like you will find one of compatators in the first page of google his web appear 4-5 times…
    If there is any advises I will be glad to hear you…

  • http://hariesaja.info pemilu

    this very good article, very helpful for me to understand google and social media. Thanks for everything, maybe next time i have own opinion about google.

  • http://www.whatcom.it communiGator

    very interesting article.
    talking about google, we should think: which is google’s business model?
    probably major google’s revenues come from other sources rather than social networks. google makes million dollars through large scale services like AdWords, by which they gain few-from-many (and when many are millions, they gain millions)
    i think that what big G is doing with social web is just keeping in touch with technological and social trends spreading on the internet, waiting the right moment to make business. presumably the G business.

  • http://www.ejetgroup.com yiwu china

    Many comments suggest that Google has taken a wait and see attitude. This seems to be a very reasonable approach in the face of the facts

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