The task of comparing and contrasting Facebook and Google+ as tools for businesses, especially for marketing, is difficult.  At this point in time, Google+ has only a few ‘test accounts’ for business that are up.  Google+ has said that they want to concentrate on developing and refining the personal accounts for now, while continuing to develop a parallel Google+ platform for business.  Much of what has been said so far about Google+ for business is a mix of speculation and inference based on the profile of the Google+ personal account.  In fact, it was only a short while ago that Google opened up membership in Google+ beyond the initial and select ‘by invitation only’ group, to the general public.

Google has built extraordinarily successful products that are widely used to search for things.  Their product line is both popular and extensive.

Facebook is all about connecting people.  Facebook is thought to have a half-billion users, but there is reason to believe that some  are unhappy because of privacy issues associated with their platform.  Facebook has also stumbled over their product upgrades, which have not always been well-received.

Google+

Google has a great line-up of products that are well-liked and in demand.  Thus, Google+ has the potential tap into Google’s already vast market, estimated to be over 1 billion users.  What’s more, Google seems not to have been dogged by problematic privacy issues, as Facebook has.

The Google+ personal account offers:

  • Circles – where you can make your own contacts, and group family, friends and work separately
  • Hangouts – live video with up to nine other people connecting on PC’s or phones
  • Huddles – a mobile chat feature that allows you to make plans with multiple people
  • Sparks – “an aggregate of all things you like and want to follow”, similar to Facebook, but this feature allows the user more control over the content

Google has designed Google+ to allow the user to screen who has access to your content, and ‘streams allow the user to filter content that is accessed (a feature similar to Facebook’s Newsfeed).

Google+ provides built in analytics, offers pay-per-click advertising and offers the user the advantage of being able to view link activities . . . to see who is hitting what link.  All this on top of the variety of apps designed just for business already offered by Google.

Google is considering offering live feed for the business accounts, enabling the users to answer their customers’ questions in real time, somewhat like Twitter.

Facebook, for business

Facebook offers:

  • Pages – where the user builds a business profile and identity
  • Ads – targeted advertising
  • Sponsored stories – allowing the user to see who of their ‘friends’ ‘likes’ the user’s company
  • Platforms – plug-ins and custom applications that enhance the social experience

Facebook has a partnership with Skype for one-to-one video conferencing.  It also has its own advertising network that is intended to make it easier for businesses to reach its target audience.

Some of Facebook’s recent changes include:

  • A newsfeed that groups posts as top stories, based on what Facebook considers will be most pertinent and interesting to the user
  • Lists, a way to automatically update your content to selected ‘friends’ or viewers
  • A real-time ticker displays the most recent content, such as posts, photos and other activities

Conclusion

I think it’s too soon to tell which of the two will offer the strongest platform for marketing.  A thorough comparison between them can’t be done yet, since Google+ can only be evaluated based on what can be observed from a personal account.  And, even though Google+ is now open to the public, Google is still referring to the product as beta!

Although many companies tried to get accounts with the first launch of Google+, Ford Motor Company was one of the few companies permitted to keep the one they opened.  Most other commercial applicants were screened out and their account disabled.  Ford and a few others were allowed to remain active as test accounts, enabling Google to hone the production and delivery of Google+ for Business.

According to Ford’s Social Media Director, Scott Monty, the Google+ crowd seems to be a more ‘cerebral’ lot.  To him, they seem more inclined to favor interaction with the people behind the company – in particular the designers and engineers.  This aspect alone makes it seem fundamentally different than the Facebook template of engagement and interaction.

Monty observed that Google+ provides the best of Twitter and Facebook while providing a very different way of obtaining and sharing information.  To him, the most attractive potential in this mode of delivery could be its discoverability factor.

Ford recently hosted a live chat session on Google+ with their Director of Marketing Communications. They covered Ford’s digital and social success; took questions, and were able to follow up with other participants using ‘Hangout’.  To me, Ford’s Google+ site offers all of what you might expect:  posts, history, games, photos, videos, and ample product information.  Of course there are plenty of links too, including to Scribd, YouTube, and . . . maybe with a little cheekiness, Facebook.

3 Facebook Pages

In reviewing the following Facebook pages, I took into consideration the information provided in the link in this week’s materials.  I also considered what we’ve covered so far concerning what makes for effective use of social media for marketing, including:

  • Call to action (engage and involve your audience)
  • Target your audience
  • Have fun!
  • Relevant content
  • Timeliness of updates
  • Inviting graphics
  • Transparency and authenticity

National Audubon Society’s Facebook page, October 10, 2011, makes a direct call to action to the visitor.  A large, colorful graphic has a prominent arrow that points upward marked “‘Like Us’; click below to get started”.  They’ve targeted their audience by including links to higher-profile organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, PBS and the Sierra Club.  The page invites the visitor to enter a contest to win a trip to the Galapagos Islands, or other prizes.  It’s called the Birding Net:

  1. Spot a bird online
  2. Identify it correctly in competition with friends
  3. Win an awesome prize!

Once you log on, terrific graphics appear, allowing you to follow birds on Twitter for more information to help you advance in the game.  I think this site is the second most effective of the three.

The look of Whole Foods Market’s Facebook page is consistent with their projected brand.  Most recently, their page was titled ‘Thrive, A Whole Foods Market Thing’.  It featured interesting, original videos relating to responsible farming, healthy life style choices, and of course, food.  It also featured a compelling, real-time graphic that illustrated Earth’s growing, total population.

In my opinion, even though it’s a good page, it isn’t the best of the three.  It’s very informative, and makes the company shine because of the way it highlights its connections and support to local small farmers.  Their target audience will no doubt respond favorably, and become even more loyal.  Nonetheless, it seems to lack mechanisms to really draw the brand new visitor in – the page seems geared to visitors already familiar with the Whole Foods brand, and what it stands for.

REI’s Facebook page works.  It’s colorful and easy to navigate.  REI appeals to their target audience’s interests.  They advise on a variety of outdoor topics, include links to their blog, feature a store locator (powered by Google maps), and of course include a link to their website.

In my opinion, this is the most effective Facebook page of the three.  I think it engages the visitor, and more; it’s enticing, potentially leading to a point of purchase.

Sources consulted for this post include:

Marquardt, Frank.  5 Key Tips for a Successful Social Media Content Strategy, Mashable, January 10, 2011.         http://mashable.com/2011/01/10/social-content-strategy/

Simone, Sonia.  7 Essential Elements of Effective Social Media Marketing, Copyblogger, August 31,2011. http://www.copyblogger.com/social-media-marketing-steps/

Carr, David F., Ford Shares Google+ Early Feedback, The Brainyard, August 24, 2011.                     http://www.informationweek.com/thebrainyard/news/social_crm/231600097

Ford Motor Company’s Google+ Jumpstart; Approved Brand Pages Coming Soon, International Business Times, IB Times Staff Reports, July 19, 2011.                                                                                                                                                                http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/183150/20110719/google-ford-motor-company-brand-pages-social-network-facebook.htm

Hammond, Jim.  The Skinny on Google+ Business Profiles vs. FacebookWhat It Can Do For Your Law Firm, Jim Hammond’s Blog, September 18, 2011.                                                                                                                                    http://www.jimhammondblog.com/2011/the-skinny-on-google-business-profiles-vs-facebook-what-it-can-do-for-your-law-firm/

Parr, Ben.  If Google’s Management Doesn’t Use Google+, Then Why Should You?, Mashable, October 4, 2011.   http://mashable.com/2011/10/04/google-needs-to-use-google-plus/

Pflaumer, Alicia.  Facebook Changes vs. Google+:  Who Made the Best Updates?, The Christian Science Monitor, September 21, 2011.    http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Horizons/2011/0921/Facebook-changes-vs.-Google-Who-made-the-best-updates

Samai, Bobby. Comparing Facebook and Goggle+, PEAK CHAT October6,2011.                                         http://blog.peakinternet.com/marketing/comparing-facebook-and-google/

Wali, Ahmad.  Google+ vs. Facebook – Equipoise or Cyberwar?, Famous Bloggers, August 8, 2011.      http://www.famousbloggers.net/google-vs-facebook-equipoise-cyber-war.html

Olenski, Steve.  While Facebook Changes, Google+ Grows . . . A Lot, Social Media Today, October 3,2011.       http://socialmediatoday.com/steve-olenski/370271/while-facebook-changes-google-grows-lot

Olanoff, Drew.  Facebook vs. Google+ – A Tale of the Tape, TNW, Apps, October 2, 2011.                                                                  http://thenextweb.com/apps/2011/10/02/facebook-vs-google-a-tale-of-the-tape/