The Implications Of Consumers Spending More Time With Facebook Than Google

I'm always surprised when there's a great deal of news buzz over something everyone knew was going to happen.  When I lived in Milwaukee, we'd joke about the first snowfall of the year and the sorry assignment given the lowliest reporter to stand on a giant pile of municipal salt to report on the efforts to clean the streets. We all know it snowed, we can see the snowplows--what's newsworthy about this, exactly?

That's the way I felt reading all the headlines about comScore's report that time spent with Facebook exceeded Google in August.  Any informed person knew the trends and expected this to happen, so whether Google or Facebook is No. 1 is less interesting to me than what the trend really means.  This week's news is not as immediately dire for Google nor as immediately beneficial for Facebook as the headlines would imply. That said, the trends do highlight the fact that Facebook has succeeded where Google has not in creating a single, cohesive experience that gives today's consumers what they want.

When people hear the Google name, the first thing that comes to mind is the search engine which, of course, is not a place where people spend a lot of time--users search and leave quickly.  But Google has many popular "sticky" sites, such as YouTube and Gmail, and despite the news, these sites are not losing attention.  In fact, Google isn't shrinking while Facebook is growing, it's just that Google isn't growing as fast as Facebook. 

But there can be no mistaking that consumers are getting something from Facebook that they cannot get from Google, and this means Facebook is poised to continue to grow compared to Google. The difference between the two companies is that Facebook has a unified offering that people find compelling, while Google has a collection of sites that people find very useful--Google search, Gmail, YouTube, Google News and the other Google destinations are largely separate consumer experiences. This is a problem, and the solution may be Google Me, the rumored and expected social offering from Google.

While Google has said little about its upcoming social product, I expect it will bring an organized social strategy to the center of the Google consumer experience. Google's social media offerings have thus far suffered from the same problem as their other sites--they've been individual and isolated offerings. Services such as Dodgeball, Orkut, YouTube and Google Buzz haven't overlapped to create a whole social offering, which is how Facebook has succeeded. 

This week's news from comScore doesn't change the game, but the evolving news over the last two years has significant implications. Facebook commands more attention and consumer time, and that puts it in a powerful position with marketers who want to reach those consumers.  This isn't a crisis for Google because it still has considerable engagement and terrific marketing offerings such as AdWords. The fact that people will continue to search, that marketers can reach those people at the exact moment they have a need, and that Google's search engine is by far the predominant player in the search space in the US means that marketing dollars will continue to flow to Google. comScore's data won't change that.

But that doesn't mean that there isn't pressure on Google. It ruled the Web 1.0 era by solving people's greatest need--the Internet was a confusing, large and disorganized place, and Google was the conduit that made the Web more usable.  But consumers of the Web 2.0 era have a different need, and Google is for the most part not satisfying that.  Google has an opportunity to leverage its strong brand and the 39.8 billion minutes people spend on Google properties each month to create what they have not yet created: a single, cohesive place to engage, share, play, communicate and learn. If it does, Google could create a serious competitive offering to Facebook and could claim more of those precious consumer minutes.

Comments

We need to examine our

We need to examine our paradigm. Who made it so that it was all about "ruling the world".? Focus excessively on technology & competition ends up diminishing what is the real experience most of us deeply desire-- genuine connection. Let's think about that. There comes a point where competition ceases to be all that interesting.... or helpful.

Thanks, Meryl

Meryl, thanks for weighing in. I don't disagree with your take, but we also have to recognize that business and competition matters. Lots of good ideas end up failing because they don't find a sustainable business model. And as consumer behavior and media consumption change, so do ad revenue and stock prices. We can't fault those in the media for focusing on who "rules the world," but to your point, that doesn't mean that smart people shouldn't be focusing on those vital "genuine connections."

Yes, We Can Fault.

What does it mean to be "sustainable" ? Failure to question our seeming unquenchable desire for both personal and corporate power and need to regularly increase financial profits is driving us down a deep, dark hole. Who decided we need to make more and more year after year? When the early Green movement discussed triple bottom line, it seemed a natural --and sane--measure that included natural resource value and human resource value. I felt hopeful it would take a front seat to the old measure of success. Unfortunately, the real bottom line is who is making more billions or attracting more millions. Hence, we see environmentally and humanely unsustainable products like CocaCola "winning" in social media. At what cost to our health and environment ? Yes, Augie, we need to question the model and the people who own the media that push it's relevance day after day after day.

It's all about the portal play

OK, I'm joking but it is interesting to note that what Google seems to be trying to do is replicate the old Web 1.0 mindset of a portal play - look at Go.com, MSN or Yahoo - and making it more special by making it Google. It doesn't work, though, as we saw years ago.

Facebook provides something a lot different than just email, but a cohesive social snapshot of friends and family (and, well, unfortunately is the social media/2.0 world acquaintances that normally we wouldn't follow/friend) and what they are doing and interested in right now (or delayed now). With Twitter and Places and other services integrated - plus photos - it's a community snapshot to see what is going on, what is being planned.

Google is email or search. It's not personable, but it's necessary. Can they extend that and make it important and necessary? I'm doubting it, just because of what's been done in the past.

A side note: Facebook embraced public relations early on, understanding it's about more than just the tech community. I'm not sure if that's in Google's DNA to think outside engineering and embracing the general public. Even their own tongue-in-cheek Chrome/Browser video on YouTube showed their failings in consumer PR.

What about iGoogle and Google Groups?

Google has certainly tried to make the portal play with iGoogle, where you have your e-mail, RSS, news, and whatever else you want (it seems) on one page, but I haven't really adopted it yet.
Where Google fell down was in not making its Google Groups a solid social platform. Everyone belongs to a number of groups that could use a good tool like this -- kids sports teams, churches, clubs, study groups -- its endless. And it is a perfect foray into bigger social media - an easy space to have some private and some public conversations. (And great opportunities for targeted marketing.) But for me, lack of calendar integration and poor document handling make it far less useful than Yahoo Groups.

Great read, some valuable

Great read, some valuable points are brought up.

One thing I can say about Facebook that stinks even after all this time: their search engine. Awful.

That is one of ways Google still has the up on Facebook.

http://twitter.com/CristianIsDaMan

Facebook search

Can't argue with you there. I struggle trying to find even simple things on Facebook. Great point, Christian.

Thanks Augie.

Thanks Augie.

What would you say the new

What would you say the new need is from this line?

"But consumers of the Web 2.0 era have a different need, and Google is for the most part not satisfying that."

Well, I wouldn't say Google

Well, I wouldn't say Google isn't completely not satisfying the consumer. Web Pro News recently posted an article where Google confirms that over 50% of people still use search as their initial means of finding out about a brand.

http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2010/09/17/google-consumers-rely-on-se...

So, Google is still very much an engine that consumers use. The thing that Google has to do is evolve socially, and in many ways, it hasn't. But heck, at least it keeps trying. I give them credit for that.

Okay... Lots of People Are Using Facebook...SHOW ME THE MONEY...

Simple.

Who goes to Facebook in the mindfrane of doing business online- who ends up doing it?

I'd venture to say that Facebook is high in numbers- LOW LOW LOW in participation. And people are getting ticked with Facebook. It's one massive brag-o-thon... where people plaster their personal follies for all to see. How many of your 400 'FRIENDS' participate- or di you truly even care about if they dropped of the face of the earth?

Facebook is HORRIFIC when it comes to getting anything done online- let alone drawing revenue into the pockets of 'The Zuck!'

How can ANYONE not see that any Facebooker- is going to GOOGLE or even YAHOO the second they need a service or product... which last time I checked was where all the money is made.

Real money isn't made by playing 'Mafia Wars' and 'thumbs upping' a drunk friend with marker on his face in a drunk pass-out photo.

Facebook is for playtime- and will be short-lived. Remember a little thing called MySpace. MySpace who?

Google is used to accomplish a task.. the credit cards are in hand of the consumers when they jump on Google. Remember- it's SOCIAL MEDIA not QVC MEDIA.

Social media is a part of SEO... advertising online... a sliver of your presence. Mark my words - people WILL NOT stick with any social network as they have in period we've been in- the heyday of social. Watch.