Slow and Steady Wins the Social Race

By Kelsey Ohman Last week, Dave Kerpen suggested that this may be Google’s year to “excel at social media” in his 3 Surprising Social Media 2013 Predictions.  He explained that Google needs to see success with Google Plus or by acquisition of another big player (Pinterest, Twitter) in order to remain relevant in the social sphere.  However, I don’t think the conversation stops there, as there are additional factors to consider that make his points more compelling.

The biggest consideration in Google’s potential for success in 2013 is their Android product.  comScore recently reported that 53.7% of smartphones in the U.S. are powered by the Android platform, while Apple retains only 35% of the market share.  What does this mean for Google’s social endeavors?  It gives them a direct connection to millions of users who interact with their products and services on a daily basis.  They can package their social products within the Android platform and can harvest useful data about their users.  By owning both the social network and the tools needed to access the network, Google has the upper hand on Facebook, Twitter, and other top networks.

Google has built many of its services on the concept of offering free, useful tools to users in exchange for data that they then use to further optimize their services or sell to advertisers.  Their motivations are often unclear until later in the game, when the results appear as a new, high-quality product.  Google’s latest move that may be linked to their social media ventures is their launch of Ingress, an augmented reality multiplayer game available on Android devices.  The game mechanics require players to walk throughout cities to various landmarks in order to progress, and the benefits for Google are tri-fold:

  • Data:  By collecting location-based data as players travel, they can hone their walking directions and mapping efforts for Google Maps and Google Navigation.
  • Marketing:  Google can offer marketing opportunities in-game by adding branded elements to the game play (directing players to a particular store, for example), in a way that is similar to Foursquare’s gamification aspect.
  • Social Networking:  Google is changing the game for social networks by connecting users in the real world.  Video games foster the strong social connections necessary for a social network to survive, and Google is simultaneously using Ingress to build Google+, as it is the exclusive method of team communication for the game.

While Google seems like the weakest link in the current social environment, it is clear that they are planning for big moves in the future.  As exemplified by their mobile platform, Google’s slow and calculated approach to building a user base may prove to be the recipe for success in social as well.

Will Google fail or succeed in social media in 2013?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!