Guest post by Dennis Yu
Search has always been about demand fulfillment, not demand generation. People have to first initiate the search, so Google has nearly perfected the satisfying of that request, which can result in sales leads. What Google doesn't do is generate demand—you can't force people to search for "purple unicorns in Alabama" unless something stimulated that demand. So that's where TV, direct mail, and other offline media are so effective. Social has been about demand generation–what are you friends up to and how do I keep up with the Joneses. Inquiring minds want to know. Facebook is the new —people flipping through the channels of their friends.
It is the ultimate word of mouth vehicle. Where TV relied upon celebrities endorsing their favorite brand of underwear or soft drink, now it's done at the micro-level, where advertisers show which of your specific friends is liking Coke and commenting on Felix's jump from space. Stay diabetic, my friends.
Google knows that the event which directly precedes the purchase intent is the review. That's why they bought Zagat and folded Google Local into Google+. Isn't the review how you decide what restaurant to eat at, what movie to watch, and so forth? And Facebook knows that the review is the most powerful form of word of mouth. That's why they started off with getting people to like everything. An explosion of like buttons led to check-ins, recommendations, offers, and Nearby. Graph search on mobile is directly how they'll compete with Google.
But Google knew this years ago. They anticipated the "open graph" strategy back in 2007, nearly six years ago. They knew Facebook's "open graph" was anything but open, since roaches can check-in, but they can't check out. Third parties cannot update the graph. And neither powerhouse shares data with one another, as you know. Twitter is the red-headed stepchild with declining traffic and an ineffective ad system, but we'll talk about them later.
So Google is trying to cut Facebook off at the knees in two ways. First, SSO (single sign on) allows you to connect to a service via your gmail account, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other account. Google is winning this war to be the universal login. They not only have more logins per day, but are growing at an increasing rate Google isn't worried about getting more people to post content or click +1. They are taking the long term view, just like when they introduced gmail into what was already a crowded space then. Anyone who says Google+ is a ghost town doesn't know strategy. The entire Google network is Google+. Think about that.
Second, is Google Glass and Android. If you own the device and the platform, you control the app marketplace. And you need a Google account to access it, of course. Google is playing at a more fundamental level here-- to own the access. I wouldn't be surprised if they rolled out free high speed broadband nationwide, like they have done in test cities. Why are they doing this? To collect more data to target ads better. Do you really think gmail is free out of the goodness of their hearts? Nope. Everything you do and say is to help drive more relevant advertising. Facebook is no different, though their PR team fights this notion. Their spin is that more relevant ads are good for the user. So what does this mean in the short term for us local advertisers and agencies? Focus on getting more reviews. We know that any time Google is interested in getting more of one type of content, they favor it in the search rankings. Remember blogs from five years ago, video from three years ago, and search extensions in the last year?
More legitimate reviews will drive your local search rankings. Put an iPad in your store for folks to check their gmail and leave reviews. Have your technicians carry around iPads to ask for the review right there. Hint: Leave the review window open for at least 30 seconds when you're done, since Google does take such signals into account. Make sure your users are on Google, since your old reviews are nor orphaned in Google+, unless these users link them together. Are you inadvertently leaving five-star reviews on the table?
On Facebook, don't worry too much about how many fans you have. That's a vanity metric big brands care about, while direct marketers should care about generating sponsored stories and check-ins. When people interact with your content, whether it's on your website or your Facebook page, you can automatically broadcast it to their friends. Facebook even wrote a Wordpress plugin for you to do this—Don was kind enough to leave a review about it, to which Matt Kelly of Facebook responded ever so kindly.
Dennis Yu is an entrepreneur and internationally recognized lecturer in social media analytics and search engine marketing. His areas of expertise include Facebook analytics and advertising, search marketing technical analysis, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign development and optimization. His company, BlitzMetrics, provides social media dashboards and analytics reporting services for all levels of business.