LCI Blog: The Social Network Arms Race

By Stephanie Lough, Account Coordinator at HMA Public Relations

This week’s LCI Backtalk contribution comes to us from our PRGN Partner in Phoenix. Here, HMA Public Relations Account Coordinator Stephanie Lough offers some insightful perspective on the Facebook vs. Google+ competition, which is heating up by the day.

The past few months have been rather hostile in the virtual land of social networking. The back and forth between Facebook and Google+ has left me feeling like we users are just pawns in their game of chess, using us strategically to take the other guy down.

The latest in the Great Social War of 2011 and Beyond came last week when, not coincidentally, Google+ rolled out nine new updates and Facebook got its second (3rd, 4th?) facelift in a few short months. This was timed very conveniently with Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference. Just think how closely we are being watched right now!

Changes made to Google include G+ opening to the public, hangouts going mobile and adding extras, integrating Google Docs and other popular Google services to their social network platform. Only, anyone interested in Google+ seemed to be the geeks already on the network and the excitement pretty much stayed there with them.

Changes made to Facebook have garnered more attention, as the changes are more dramatic and the first thing you see when logging in. There are also more people on Facebook to give a darn. The biggest change was to users homepage, where there is now “top news” at the, er, top of the page. You can chose what is top news but checking or unchecking posts, or you can let Facebook decided with its witchcraft. I mean analytics.

There is also the ticker, which displays real time news on the right side. Like any changes made to Facebook, the ticker had caused mass panic on the social highways which will eventually pass, at least until next month when even more new features suddenly appear. Hey, I get it – I deactivated my account for a week when the news feed first premiered, but that was during my conspiracy-minded liberal college days.

A feature that I particularly like on Facebook is its ability to create lists for you. No, not the creepy kind based on who you poke the most, but going off of real information the actual person inserted into their own profile, such as school, hobbies, etc. Lists have been around for a while on Facebook, but I know very few people that use them. Plus, I’m far too lazy to go through all 1200 preexisting friends (humble brag) and decide where to put them.

Although it is similar to G+ circles, it can be difficult to determine who belongs in what group. Sure, people can as many groups as they’d like, but do I really need forty different circles? But she’s a friend AND a coworker, so I can’t put her in friends…but I want to share more than just office posts….I know! I’ll make a ‘Coworkers who are kinda like friends but shouldn’t see all my friend list posts’ list.

Reading feedback for both sites, many people are treating the Facebook and Google debate is like the classic NSync vs. Backstreet Boy dilemma – you can only choose one favorite, and you must hate the other. Just with less crying preteen girls…they’re all on Tumblr.

So where do they stand in the arm’s race? Depends on who you ask.

Personally, I still think G+ has the most potential, as it has far more useful features I will actually use …once there are people on G+ to use them with. Alas, Facebook is still on top, and if they continue to improve on Google’s ideas, they might actually create what consumers want, although we don’t know what “that” is. We may be pawns in the battle now, but when (if) the competition is over, the users are guaranteed to win. But, at the end of the day, Twitter is still my fave.

So what do you think of the new changes? Who do you want to see on top?

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5 Comments

  1. Rob Reply

    Stephanie: Thanks for the great guest commentary. Indeed all eyes are on this competition. And for what it’s worth, I’m still firmly in the FB camp. — Rob

  2. Jessy Reply

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thank you for the witty and insightful post.

    I am getting more familiar with the latest Facebook changes, so I need more time to figure out if I like them or not, since I remember some great past changes (e.g. privacy settings), and some pointless others (e.g. removing the ‘reply’ button, and having to press ‘enter’ instead to send messages).

    I have to admit that Facebook can be a great social tool, but I want to see something new, and so, I cannot wait to see what G+ has to offer. Although Facebook seems to be THE social media giant (yes, I place it before Twitter, sorry!), Google is so resourceful that I am expecting (and hoping) amazing features and surprises from G+.

    Thanks again for the post.

    Best,
    Jessy

  3. Scott Hanson, APR, Fellow PRSA Reply

    And this “Arms Race” has opened up the floodgates to the rumor mill. Will FB start charging a monthly fee? Can you really check to see who unfriended you and on what date? And that’s probably just a start. I’d rattle off a couple more, but I’ve got some Tweeting to do.

    • admin Reply

      It’s a war for the best future app!

  4. Stephanie Lough Reply

    Thanks for reading, everyone! Jessy – I agree completely that we just have to wait for the dust to settle before we can really judge these Facebook changes, and no doubt will many more be rolled out as users react. With all the focus on Facebook, G+ will need to do something to attract more users so the resourcefulness and what believe to be the obvious benefits can finally be put to use.

    Scott- I haven’t heard any rumors of Facebook starting to charge a monthly fee, but I’m pretty confident that what it is – a rumor. Always an interesting thought, though. Have we reached the point (read- have people’s addictions reached the point) that users will pay for the service? I think it is easier to say “no” than we realize.