In some circles, Google is considered to not "get" social media. By this, we mean that Google's social media attempts have yet to make the same impact that other businesses have managed. Google+ has a wide and interesting selection of active users but not to the same scale that we see other platforms such as Facebook (with it's near 1.5 billion regular monthly users), Snapchat and even Twitter. Google Buzz and Google Friend Connect, if anybody remembers these, were completely underwhelming services. Google attempted to enforce Google+ upon people and this simply wasn't effective, so for the time being the big G's social network appears to be on the back burner.
However, to the naysayers; Google's lack of success with social media does not matter in the same way that if Facebook failed to be a success. You see, social media is very much a means of building a profile about users. Every click we make on Facebook is monitored and used to build a profile. Although Facebook denies that it uses device microphones to eavesdrop on conversations, it appears to at least use location tracking to recommend people to connect with. The more we use a social network of one sort or another, the more information we shunt into the service and the more valuable we are to the company when it comes to selling that information on to advertisers. Yes, yes; social media is a great way to connect with friends, but it's better at building a profile that is worth something to the company behind the network, and this information gathering is something Google is very, very good at. It doesn't need to build a social network in order to glean information from users.
It's difficult to draw the comparison between Google and other businesses such as Facebook because with Google being the size that it is, it operates in a different way. Both Facebook and Google are technology companies selling advertising, both go about it in a very different way. Facebook has acquired other social platforms and the two main ones are Instagram and WhatsApp. These services are busy with many millions of users. Google's acquisitions have been somewhat different – for example, they bought Nest, the company behind the Nest smart thermostat and the Nest Protect smart smoke detector. Microsoft could be introduced into the equation here because of their recent purchase of LinkedIn; Microsoft already has an advertising platform and this acquisition makes some business sense, but raises a great many questions. It's too early to say if the LinkedIn acquisition by Microsoft is sensible or not.
Then there's Twitter, one of the original big-name social networks that has struggled through the years. Twitter has been through several changes of management as the social network has reworked and redesigned itself. The company has dropped the ball a couple of times in the last few years, restricting third party application user numbers, but is slowly managing what appears to be a conversion into a near-real time news and support service. We've seen many businesses launch a Twitter help support service and both businesses and individuals will turn to Twitter for major announcements when the need arises. Twitter is a micro blogging service – messages must be sent as small packets of information, essentially, and this keeps the tempo high. Although we've seen a threat to this – Twitter is increasing the character limit, which means that messages over the service are either broken down into multi-part messages, or are necessarily brief. In the case of news stories or say service updates from a transport company, the media has proven to be perfect: the message states the headline and there's a link to the full story. It's quick and it's snappy, which research tells us is exactly what today's smartphone wants from a news service.
Does this mean that Google should buy Twitter, as some in the industry have asked? Yes, Twitter remains independent and yes, it has around three times the number of regular users as we see on Google+. Is it sensible to combine Google's struggling social media platform with Twitter's struggling social media platform? Twitter has struggled to build on its strengths and is being rapidly overshadowed by competitors such as Snapchat and Instagram. This could be likened to huddling together to keep warm from the cold. It is true that Twitter has some great complementary features that could work very well with Google's existing platform: imagine Twitter set up as a news application sending links to Google's high performance Accelerated Mobile Pages technology. We'd be reading the news story practically as soon as it left the editor's desk.
And we also have to ask ourselves why the world's most powerful social network, Facebook, hasn't already snapped up Twitter – or at least tried to. Yes, Facebook and Twitter are different businesses but so too are Facebook and WhatsApp. Perhaps Facebook are mulling over a Twitter acquisition and perhaps Google is considering how to leverage their marketing muscle on the Twitter service, too, but on the question as to why Google (or Facebook) have not already bought Twitter, there are very good reasons.