Yesterday, Google released a major update to its search engine and drew the collective ire of the Internet. Dubbed “Search, plus Your World,” the change personalizes search results for people who are signed into their Google accounts. According to Google,
“Search has always brought you information from across the web. Now, search gets better by including photos, posts, and more from you and your friends. When signed in with Google+, you’ll find personal results and profiles of people you know or follow. You can even expand your world by discovering people related to your search.”
Oh, the humanity! Critics have expressed hyperbolic alarm at the move, with many framing the release not only as an anti-competitive move with potential antitrust implications, but also as step towards aggravating non-techie, everyday users of Google’s search engine. Competitors such as Twitter even piled on with fake outrage, ostensibly in defense of individual privacy.
Yes, this is a big change, and Twitter (among others) has reason to fear the move (read: $$). But the bottom line is that Google desperately needs to counter the rise of social networks as competing destinations for ad spending. And don’t even mention Google’s paranoia regarding the likely release of a competing search product from Facebook.
So I ask, People of the Internet, with your brilliant strategic minds and obvious business acumen, what would you have Google do instead?
Would you have tried to make more money with traditional website display ads, relying on the good ol’ web to stave off the rise of mobile apps?
Oops. It seems like that wouldn’t be a good plan (Consult the chart from Flurry above).
Would you have advised Google to focus its efforts — and future profitability — on serving up ads within text-based mobile search results?
Oops. You mean you forgot about the imminent threat from Siri (And Kinect, and all inevitable clones of the two across all mobile platforms)?
Would you have told Google to leverage the unchecked rise of Android?
Oops. You mean Android actually lost 13 percentage points of U.S. smartphone market share last month, while iOS gained 17%?
So go ahead, dear Brilliant Business Strategists of the Internet, who obviously have an amazing alternative strategic plan up your collective sleeve, lend us your keen insights and sage business advice.
I’ll wait here.
Millions of people are about one week into working on their goals/resolutions for the 2012 year. For tech savvy types, these plans may involve learning to code via Codeacademy’s Code Year initiative, or obtaining a new technical certification. For others (aka the “Normals“), plans might center around losing weight, becoming more active, or saving more money (at least that’s what this fantastic infographic from Radian6 shows).
And for me? I’m committed to reading more books, trying new foods, and learning to meditate. But each of those resolutions will be a piece of cake compared with my most ambitious goal for 2012:
I’m going to spend less time on Twitter.
To be clear, I’m not planning to spend less time on social networks. It’s just that I’ll be allocating my time differently. Twitter is great, obviously — it’s become a daily essential for me alongside air, food and water — but it has become relatively less interesting as other apps and/or social networks increasingly pull away my attention.
Like other established heavyweight networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter has come to resemble a presidential candidate who has survived a grueling nomination process and must now focus on appealing to a more moderate general electorate. In other words, these social networks are racing to to the middle, adding “me too” features that newer users expect and appreciate.
A couple of examples:
- Facebook’s recent “subscribe” feature that enables individuals — especially public figures — to share public posts with non-friends, providing for asymmetric follower relationships similar to Twitter.
- Twitter’s enhanced profile pages that allow businesses to manage initial consumer impressions, similar to landing tabs on Facebook (yes, I know they’re not actually tabs anymore).
And there are more. This is a good problem for these networks to have, of course. But the need to cater to the expectations of newbies due to mainstream acceptance doesn’t always lead to terribly interesting innovation.
As a consequence, I’m starting to spend less time on the heavyweight social networks. My average time spent on Facebook per day has dropped by about half, and LinkedIn has been relegated to a few visits per week (Yes, I know this is a bad thing. I know.). And Twitter? I’ve refined my Twitter lists to segment professional connections, news sources and personal relationships. These lists are so finely-tuned now that I keep up-to-date with news related to digital strategy and social media during the day, and scan through tweets from friends when I have free time.
So where will I be spending more of my time online? In place of Twitter, I’m going to commit time to a handful of other apps that are simply more interesting to me right now, such as:
- Pinterest: A self-described “Virtual Pinboard” that facilitates easy sharing of images from across the web via virtual boards. It boasts a phenomenal growth rate – over 5x from September 2010 to December 2011. Here’s my profile.
- Instagram: It’s the fastest-growing mobile social network ever, and it provides an easy means for sharing photos with amazing filter effects.
- Path: Taking a unique approach to social networking, Path caps the number of friends for each member at 150. The focus is on closer, more personal sharing between friends (without the acquaintances and professional colleagues who have started to bleed over into your Facebook friendships).
- Google+: I’ve had the unique experience of recovering from Google+ page suspension; despite that, I’m bullish on its potential. G+ is fresh off of its largest-ever surge in traffic during December 2011, and the Google+ continues to add features to improve the service. Here’s my profile.
In addition to spend more time on these four apps, I have also started up a photo blog on Tumblr, a platform that I adopted early-on and then abandoned a long time ago. I’ve found a reason to give it another shot this year.
Thus, 2012 will be a year of trying out new things and spending less time on the networks — especially Twitter — that have garnered most of my attention over the past couple of years. It’s not just a case of chasing new and shiny objects, either. I view Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Path as apps/networks with real staying power, and the first three are especially interesting for brands.
Sometimes, it’s important to look beyond what is mature and proven. It’s certainly more interesting — wouldn’t you agree?