Sometimes having too many smart people with a singular focus in a room can hurt you. I’m beginning to believe this is the case at Google; too many PhD’s in mathematics and computer science, not enough marketers in the room who don’t have any skin in the game. Someone who can be objective about what they see and the best way to capitalize it. It seems that Google just never gets it.
Enter the + (And Everything Else Google Launched Yesterday)
Google + made its appearance to the world yesterday. I haven’t used it and can’t speak to it. What I can speak to is the unveiling strategy of Google+ and how oddly familiar it is to Google Wave’s introduction. And, if we’re keeping score on this one, I was right about Google Wave in the end. As Danny Sullivan said yesterday:
Product List and Reading Materials from 6-28-2011
Because Google pushed so much out the door yesterday, it’s hard to keep track of everything that surfaced. I’m not even sure this is a complete list, but there are some very interesting things that happened yesterday.
- Google Swiffy
- Google What Do You Love (WDYL) Search
- Google’s Aesthetic New Black Toolbar
- Google Places New Look
Whew. That’s an awful lot of stuff to throw at the wall, especially in one day. While everyone is phreaking on Google+, quietly Google put out an awesome resource of Swiffy, converting SWF files to HTML 5. And the changes to the Google Places page is very interesting too, along with the toolbar change.
Throwing Crap Against the Wall
I think even hack, unseasoned marketers know that’s probably not the best way to introduce products to market place or the public. It’s the, forgive the language here, “Shit Stick” method. You throw as much shit at the wall as you can, and see what sticks and holds. For company that has, what seems to be, an unlimited marketing and product development budget, I guess this can be successful.
I’d argue that it makes more fiscal sense, as well as marketing sense, to develop one or two great ideas and create an intriguing, solid go-to-market strategy. But, you say, that’s what Google did with Google Wave.
Google Can’t Market Worth a Damn
Say “STOP” when this sounds familiar: groundbreaking product, huge hype (over-hype), limited admission (huge bottleneck) in order to create the appearance of exclusivity disguised as “slow testing”, and little to no mention from anyone outside the tech and search industry. Wow, that’s exactly what Google Wave was. But, it’s also Google+’s entry into the market place. It has the same scent as Google Wave, same short-sidedness as Google Wave, and nearly the same go-to-market strategy as Google Wave.
Marketing to the Technological Elite Isn’t a Great General Marketing Strategy
Can Google please hire just one marketer to sit in these “product launch” meetings? You know, someone who knows a little bit of something about the general populous, societal behavior, and how to get people into using a product? Because Google hasn’t done it right, again. Unless of course, they only want the tech and search community to use the tool?
What Google is trying to do is get people who don’t need Google+ to use it. And the best way to do that is to explain the benefit and the need to general populous. Not to the people who will use it anyway. They market this product to the people who, for the most part, are fluent in technology and not to folks that aren’t. And that, people, is how scores are kept: can you make this product attractive to someone who doesn’t need it (right now) and make them use it? That is where market saturation is reached. They’ve got it backwards: Google markets to the technological elite and savvy and hopes it filters down to the general public.
And, if Google ties employee bonuses to social product success, as reported by Geekosystem, then their products will consistently fail. Yes, that’s an attractive carrot to dangle; however, in my opinion, people only work just hard enough to achieve bonus levels. Meaning, the initial push should secure the bonus and then no one has to care.
Sacrificing the Core for The Next Big Thing?
Dave Winer’s post “Google Yawn” is an interesting one, and I think it hits home the point: killing who you are and what you do to be everything to everyone. I don’t know how Google+ will shake out because I haven’t used it. I hope it succeeds, I really do. But, if you’re asking me based on the go-to-market strategy, then I say it has a very slim chance of survival past 9 months. Google product launches are nothing more, to me, than a big, expensive firework: huge explosion, flashy presentation, loud noises, and they fizzle away into oblivion.
I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know why it happened. And, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea. I do know, however, that your corporate Facebook page should not be a substitute for your website. And, yet for some reason, major brands insist that interested consumers go to their Facebook page from expensive television ads and paper ads. Let me start out by saying, that it’s commendable that big brands are attempting to integrate social media into their repertoire. But to use Facebook, and other social media sites, as the central hub of how consumers get to know your brand, and interact with your brand, is simply wrong.
Your Website is the Center of Your Galaxy
Your website is, and will always be, the center of your corporate galaxy. It retains the most gravity (in a sense) with major search engines, it’s what brand-loyalists will know first, and it’s what prospective consumers of the brand will run across first.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc are satellites in the corporate galaxy, and are of varying size like the planets in our galaxy. For example, your Facebook page can be the Jupiter of your corporate online universe: a hefty gravity of its own, numerous moons, but still bound to the gravitational pull of the Sun (your website).
Put it in Perspective
Satellite Brand Extensions
Social sites are satellite extensions of your brand, they were never meant to be the spokesperson for your brand, but rather a liaison or a networking mercenary. A lot will argue that point because they think that’s exactly what social is intended for: spokesperson-dom. But, it shouldn’t be the authority on your brand. That’s your website’s job. It’s where the information is (or at least should be). It’s where consumers find out what you offer, what you do, and how you do it. And, yet, big brands are continually positioning Facebook as the destination.
Everything Facebook Can Do, Your Website Can Do
Even those brands using Facebook successfully are still driving consumers back to their website to engage the content, tacking some identifiers into the URL string so they know the came from Facebook. Let’s look at a cross-section of several industries:
All the contests you promote, all the special content you promote, and all the slick, time-saving apps are already on your website. Why aren’t you driving engagement there? Why not advertise specially created landing pages from costly TV ads and print buys? Why are you driving already-loyal consumers, and those you hope to persuade, to the Facebook walled-garden? Moreover, why are you sending them to place where your competitor’s ads are and can roam freely, defeating the purpose? That’s why there’s Facebook Connect, allowing people to “like”, share, and interact with your Facebook wall directly from your website.
Don’t Tell Me It’s About SERPs & Engagement
Even though Bing will be using Facebook “Like” data in the SERPs, it’s still not very prevalent. Here’s one example query, signed in with Facebook credentials: “milwaukee bucks” – Bing http://binged.it/jgfs2z . It’s no different than what you would find in Google’s SERP, signed in, with +1 and social connections promoting things via Twitter. Beyond that, just how influential are these social “vouches”, the “likes”, in the search results? Are they really that jam-packed with influence as to alter a searcher’s decision? In my opinion, no, not in the least. But that won’t stop SEMs and Social gurus from pushing it down everyone’s throat to justify their existence.
Engagement? Is the engagement that much better or more meaningful on Facebook? Is a “like” really that significant on a macro or micro strategy level? All these big corporations, and mid-sized businesses, are doing is creating an extra step to get to the information. If you want to get people to enter your contest, or look at specials you’re running, or engage some nifty application that might make their lives easier, why not send them to unique landing pages on your site? It stands to reason there would be some incredibly valuable consumer engagement when they don’t have extra barriers to plow through, right?
Here Comes the Sun
Stop treating your website as superfluous. It is your online brand. It is the center of your corporate universe and all your social satellites revolve in its orbit, not the other way around. Your website shows up in search results first; I’ve seen corporate pages take up to as many as the first 5 spots. And, what’s never on the first page of results in both Bing and Google? Your Facebook page.
Your social media efforts should serve to drive consumers, and links, back to the site where the engagement and experience is richer, more informative, and more data mine-able to help you make better decisions about your website and your social campaigns.
If you work in search marketing, then chances are good that you’ve read the great journalistic effort from Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Land “Social Signals Google and Bing Really Count?” Since the story is now 13 days old in linear, real-time (translating to roughly 6 months old in Search Marketing time), you might be wondering why I’m choosing to talk about this now?
There’s been plenty of talk about the details of how Bing and Google credit profiles and what they key off of to assess that profile’s authority. But, what I haven’t heard from anyone, is the quintessential problem this reporting of this data brings with it: do you build a profile for quality or a profile for ranking purposes.
This post is solely going to focus on Twitter profiles. While Facebook does have relevance to the conversation, it’s not being used by more than one of the major search engines in full (via Search Engine Land’s Article) and even at that it appears Bing is back-referring to Twitter to surmise authority. Ultimately, this is going to more introspective about how I’ve used Twitter in last two years, than empirical facts.
It All Starts With Quality
We all start building our profiles with the aim of quality in mind, because, after all, our first profiles are usually personal. We follow influential people in our business spaces, friends, or people who provide amusing or great information. As your time in a given space grows, your own influence builds. Whether it takes months or years, every active profile arrives at this point where they must choose the direction of the profile.
Follower counts grow, following counts grow. The opportunities to spread your meme farther and farther is alluring. At some point you stop focusing on the quality of followers and focus on the number. Bigger is better. And Google and Bing seem to agree with that logic. What Danny was calling the SocialRank and as Bing articulated:
We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results
Nowhere in that statement does it mention quality. And, you might feel free to apply that to this statement, but I’d be careful about that. It seems to be focused on straight quantity. Followers to Following. The measurement, it would seem to Bing, is to see a well-defined gap between Followers and Following.
It Ends With Rank
I’ll be the first to admit, being on twitter for almost 2 years now, that I’m as interested in attaining rank, being as “influential” in the space as possible. At some point Twitter transformed itself for me into being a tool for getting messages out, highlighting great content, building relationships (i.e. Superstar mentality) and less about the quality of followers.
For the first year on Twitter, I didn’t care about counts in the least. I built a profile fashioned out the industry’s best, whether they followed back or not, because they brought great information and conversation to the table. I was of the mindset that I would rather have a succinct core of idea and information exchange, than be a Jim Morrison wanna-be. I subscribed, and still do subscribe, to Edward Lewis’ Twitter paradigm that you kill off spam profiles/accounts from followers. Because it was/is all about quality in your stream and getting the maximum from the space/tool. Then it happened:
At some point, I started caring about how my profile ranked and how much influence my profile carried. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but is was a progression over time. And, truthfully, it makes me a bit sad. I love the community of SEMs/SEOs/Marketers that I listen to and communicate with daily. I really do believe we are as tight-knit a community as there is on the web, but at some level we all see each other as a means to an end. Spreading the meme, good SERP position for queries where social has influence, and standing on one another’s shoulders to shout for authority/thought-leader status.
Just tonight I looked over my profile and found a huge surplus of spam hanging around. And, because I’m so careful to keep an acceptable Friend/Follower ratio, I explain it away. I prune obvious leaving the ones I know are spam but fake human well enough.
The Tools Reinforce This Behavior
Don’t get me wrong, I think Klout, Peer Index, and the like are innovative and genius. But they reinforce the mentality about Rank over Quality. And, yes, I use these tools to not only keep tabs on my own influence, but when I’m engineering a social attack strategy, these are first places I go to start organizing and architecting that attack.
These tools assess influence, reach, amplification. I don’t know the accounts personally, whether they’re small and have a solid following; I just know that I’m going to place Person X here and Person Z here because their influence and amplification dictate those terms. Because these are the right moments to set off the meme-explosions with the right profiles. It’s impersonal and cold-hearted.
Google and Bing Reinforced This Behavior
I’m not blaming the messenger for this. Danny did a bang-up job on that post. I’m blaming the engines for encouraging people to be more mindful of their counts than the quality of their profiles. It’s clear the engines think that these two ideas overlap, that one can’t be had without the other. In some respects, they’re right. Quality attracts quality. However, quality also attracts a boat-load of spam.
To be honest, one the hand I’m glad the engines finally admitted what most of have known for some time: influence, friend/follower ratios matter. On the other hand, it disturbs me that this information will only encourage more spam profiles to be created, and that people will not label as such because of the influence factor. I know that’s asserting a lot about the Twitter community in general, but I see this as an inevitable outcome. When ratios matter, when authoritative meme-spreading matters, spam gets a break because they lend itself to bolstering stats and occasionally helping a meme along.
What’s the Solution
I wish I had one. And, there are some of you out there saying, “And? No problem here. It is what it is.” I’d love to tell you that Tweeple will reverse course and solely focus on building quality, but I know that’s not realistic, or feasible. We’re marketers, it’s about leveraging advantages.
The solution is to let this take its course. That’s the best I’ve got folks. I think since there’s still some mystery around how engines are viewing what’s authoritative and influential and what’s not, there’s no reason to get jittery. Yet. But, if “links” have taught us anything, it’s only a matter of time before exploitation of the system becomes a premium. And it is my sincere hope that the engines have enough sense to adjust fire when it becomes saturated into their SERPs.
Overall, I’d like to see our community eliminate the spam profiles following them now. I know that you kill off one, three more takes its place, but if we remain steadfast on eliminating these profiles, eventually we’ll be left with quality. I can hope can’t I? (Starting with me)