Facebook Returns Fire at Google+

  on August 12 2011 10:48 AM
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The friendly entry of Google+ has turned into a full-out war to control the social-media landscape as rivals begin to return fire after Google's latest moves into gaming.

Last Friday Google added a dozen games to Google+, a move mimicking the Facebook environment that has allowed developers to flourish, and user retention to increase.

But Facebook responded immediately, taking the wind out of Google's roll-out with updates to its own gaming platform. The No.1 social-media site said certain games will now have larger playing areas, and games will be able to send updates into a user's social stream.

More Than Games

Relations between Facebook and Google have soured in recent years as the technology partners have grown into bitter rivals competing to swoop up the online advertising space.

Google's direct entry into the social space only exacerbates that.

But beyond the obvious consumer realm, the next biggest thing could be a social networking space for businesses. To date there's only one social network that has had success, Linked In, which saw an $8 billion IPO in May.

Google has already shown its inclination to go into this space, saying its service would be "amazing" for business. They key was it would be at a later date, so Google deleted current business causing a mild uproar that Facebook happily filled.

Facebook roll-out "Facebook for Business" that teaches companies how to use the site's "powerful marketing tools" to create a Facebook Page, build relationships with members of the Facebook community, and use Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories.

While not necessarily being new as businesses already use Facebook, the announcement instead highlighted how businesses could further take advantage of Facebook. The timing, however, perfectly highlighted Google's stumble.

Broader Challenges

While the rate of growth is unrivaled, Google+ is still small in comparison to mature rivals Facebook and Twitter, which have 750 million and 200 million registered users, respectively.

Google also needs to take steps to ensure that its new social network doesn't follow the same fate as its predecessors: Google Buzz and Google Wave.

While those sites saw initial interest, participation waned and those projects were eventually pulled.

"[Google+'s] ultimate success will depend on how well it converts this strong trial base into regular users," ComScore's Andrew Lipsman warned.

Indeed, while rivals like Facebook and Twitter have become online destinations in themselves, over 50 percent of traffic coming to Google+ originates from Google or Gmail.

Facebook also enjoys stronger user engagement than Google+. In the increasingly competitive digital marketing environment, advertisers are concerned with not only reach and targeting, but also user how long users are interacting with the site.

The time spent on Google+ is roughly an average of 5 minutes 15 seconds on Google+. In comparison, Facebook users spend 55 minutes on the site per day, on average, according to Facebook's self-reported statistics.

And while Google CEO Larry Page told investors that the site has already amassed 10 million users -- and observers estimating 25 million now -- HitWise data indicates that just 10 percent of those registered visit the site.

With strong integration to Google's ecosystem of products and services and plenty of hype, Google+ will have little problems reaching more people.

The challenge will be converting them from passers-by to dedicated users.

 

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