Facebook or Google+? Which network has the upper hand in winning our hearts and minds? Which is better poised for success? Which is an accident waiting to happen?
For investors, marketing strategists, and social media participants, questions like these are being pondered mightily. Betting on the wrong horse could result in fortunes squandered and marketing programs demolished — conceivably overnight. While there are no easy answers, this post will compare Google+ and Facebook in three areas …
- Financial Strength
- User Experience
- Business Effectiveness
… to see just who has the upper hand.
Google+ vs Facebook – Financial Strength
A quick disclaimer: I’m not a financial expert and am not making any recommendations for buying or selling shares of Facebook, Google, or any other entity.
1. By the Numbers: Advantage Google+
Google is the clear winner in this category: it’s bigger and broader, with a more clearly established market value and enormous market share. Google’s annual revenue is $38 billion, versus Facebook’s $3.7 billion. Google has more than 10 times the advertising revenue, and net income that exceeds Facebook’s by $9 billion.
- Google: Market cap: $188.6 billion, P/E: 17.53
- Facebook: Market cap: $57.51 billion, P/E: 68.80
2. Market Perception: Advantage Google+
The market is giving Facebook a big thumbs-down: its IPO was a disaster, with the initial public offering of $38 per share falling quickly to the current (July 3, 2012) price of $30.77. Google, in contrast, is currently considered a moderate buy.
Google+ vs Facebook - User Experience
For this post, I’m defining user experience very broadly, as a wide range of factors that influence Google+ and Facebook’s ability to attract and retain social media users.
1. Design: Advantage Facebook
Facebook has a clear advantage in site design. Its platform has a fun factor that’s entirely lacking on Google+, and allows for a very high degree of user customization. Both platforms could improve on navigation, but for now Google+ has a stripped-down design with no appeal for recreational users or visually-oriented business users.
2. Variety: Advantage Facebook
Google+ revolves around conversation streams; Facebook is like walking into a carnival. Google will need to pour big dollars into making Google+ the broad-based platform that Facebook is today. Variety is a big plus for Facebook, since it broadens the appeal and influences people to spend more time on the platform. However, Google+ is barely out of beta, and a recent poll indicates that 34% of Facebook users are spending less time there — so this advantage may not hold up.
3. Privacy: Both Lose
Both Facebook and Google+ have come under fire by opting users in for sharing personal information. While this causes an uproar, time and time again Facebook has proved that people will continue to use it despite the ham fisted privacy policies. Taking liberties with user privacy is one indication that both networks regard advertisers rather than users as their customers. Whichever network flips that equation will gain a competitive advantage.
4. Safety and Security: Advantage Google+, Kind Of
Facebook has much more exposure here, as its platform has sadly become a hangout for bullies, predators and other types of malicious users. While Facebook continually takes steps to thwart abuse, it’s not easy. If and when Google+ attracts recreational users, it will face the same problems, but for now, Google+ is probably seen as the safer network.
5. Customer Service: Advantage Google+
If you know how to get help from Facebook, please let me know. At least with Google, you can get a response — and depending on the issue, a rapid and decisive one. And, thanks to Google’s longevity and comparatively nerdy user base, there are plenty of online forums around to help users work through issues.
6. Social Networking: Advantage Google+
Googe+ and Facebook are pretty much equal in terms of the usability of their conversation threads and flexibility in organizing connections. To me, the big difference is in community building, where Google+ has an edge; it seems to be much easier to find plussers with common interests and then connect.
Google+ vs Facebook - Business Effectiveness
Let’s take a quick look at a few key business uses of Google+ and Facebook and see who comes out on top.
1. Paid Advertising: Advantage Google+
Google has barely begun to integrate ads on Google+, but I don’t care. Whenever they get around to it, Google+ advertising will run circles around Facebook. Facebook ads, always a questionable value, are getting a lot of bad press, and it doesn’t give me warm fuzzies to hear that Facebook is replacing its unsuccessful ad model with a completely unproven one.
2. Brand Awareness and Brand Affinity: Advantage Facebook
Consumer brand building is Facebook’s business wheelhouse. This will continue to be the case until Facebook falls completely out of favor. To illustrate the difference, Coca-Cola on Facebook has 44 million fans; Coca-Cola on Google+ has 551,000 fans.
3. Thought Leadership: Advantage Google+
Facebook has not proven especially fruitful for B2Bs, but I see ample opportunities on Google+ for small and midsize firms to build credibility. The network is more serious-minded, and features like Hangouts are ideally suited for business use.
4. SEO: Advantage Google+
Google is aggressively indexing, ranking, and/or displaying Google+ original content and content shares in its search engine. In contrast, Facebook’s internal search engine is notoriously lame, and Facebook content that appears in Google search has little business relevance.
And the Winner Is …
My vote goes to Google+, mainly because Facebook is a house of cards. While indisputably the current social leader, Facebook’s biggest asset, 900 million+ users, could disappear in a heartbeat. On the other hand, Google+ is being driven by a powerhouse company and has nowhere to go but up.
What’s your call — Facebook or Google+?
(Note: Brad Shorr works for Straight North, Chicago web designers who work with midsize B2B firms in a wide range of niches, from credit card service for small business to GPS tracking systems for trucks.)