The BBC aired a one hour profile of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday (if you’re in the UK, you can watch it here). All in all, most of you will have heard every detail shared before; aside from perhaps one question, does Mark Zuckerberg really see Google+ as a threat?
The question was met with a wry smile that almost dismissed the question before he’d answered it but thankfully he continued:
“Yeah Google’s a great company and I think we want to look at and learn from everything that they do. But at the same time, people have shared a lot on Facebook and have already told a lot of their life story on Facebook. And we think that we have by far better tools for doing that.”
As far as we’re aware this is the first acknowledgement of Google+’s potential threat, aside from his brief mention of Google’s “little Facebook.”
On November 8, 2011, this is how Google's Bradley Horowitz, V.P. of Product design responded:
"We're delighted to be underestimated."
Zuckerberg will almost certainly be paying attention to Google+ because irrespective of how Google wants to market it, Google+ is a director competitor to Facebook. And with Google continuing to plough resources into Google+,
and it has a backing of a company with deep pockets of cash and plenty of places to direct traffic to it; the next couple of years could see dramatic changes in the way we communicate.
COMMENTARY: Google’s Bradley Horowitz fired back at Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that the company is “building its own little Facebook” responded by saying to his rival:
“We're delighted to be underestimated.”
Horowitz, who as VP of Product at Google is a key figure behind Google+, discussed Google's rivalry with Facebook, the development of Google+ and new updates to the service during an interview with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang in the US back on November 8, 2011.
Horowitz rejected comparisons between Google, Facebook and other social networks as being little more than fodder to give the media advertising and click throughs, with the Google man insisting that the company is focused in making its services better and not watching the competition.
When asked about user numbers of the service, Horowitz declined to give an exact figure but he did reveal that the company estimates Google+ has grown beyond the 40 million unique user number that Larry Page revealed during Google’s recent earnings call.
“The three weeks [since the announcement] seem like an eternity to us and we’ve grown significantly since then. Our growth keeps on amazing us but there is nothing new to announce just yet.”
In response to criticisms of the service and a perceived low retention of users, Horowitz said that Google is “delighted” by usage of Google+ and the network it is building. He also suggested that the new features are reviving dormant users with “staggering numbers of users coming back to the service” thanks to a range of new additions that the company made last week.
Discussing the new features of the service, which now includes brand pages and increased integration with other Google services, Horowitz emphasised the importance of linking Google products together.
"Google+ is not a siloed product. It is not divorced from the rest of Google, instead it is a new way of using all the Google services that you know and love."
Initially Google+ endured a difficult relationship with brands and Horowitz recounted how the search giant had been “forced” to remove a number of companies (including us) from the social network in its early days.
"Brands and businesses go where the users are and [after launching Google+] we suddenly had a lot of companies queuing up to enter. We had to kick them off as we wanted to do something special for brands and the users that interact with them."
The company has now launched its pages for brands which includes Direct Connect, a feature that enables users to find and add brands to Google+ circles “easily”. Horowitz believes the service will offer a new way for companies to interact with customers, thanks to customer differentiation — with companies able to grade their followers to gold, silver or bronze levels — and Google Hangout which offer the possibility to “really put a face on a brand” when dealing with customers.
I don't envy the challenge Google, and in particular Bradley Horowitz, face in competing with Facebook. I have stated in previous posts that they should avoid trying to make incremental changes just to match Facebook's product offerings. Horowitz must strive to give Google+ an exciting look, simple UI and a better experience for its users. He should make Google+ a special destination for its "core" users, who tend to be managers, techies and social media guru's like myself.
It is going to be an uphill fight to steal away Facebook users when they are very "vested" and grounded at Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg made very difficult for a Facebook user to move his follower data over to Google+ by blocking access to the Facebook user database. This effectively requires each new Facebook user who migrates over to Google+ to send out invitations to each of his fans. That's a lot of work.