Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Recent Growth in the Social Media Space

This past week marked several significant steps in the ever changing state of the social media space. Google, the internet search leader, released Google Buzz. Similar to Facebook, Google Buzz will let Gmail users post updates about what they are doing or thinking and share those with the rest of the world or with only a select group of people. Gmail users also will be able to track other people’s updates and instantly comment on them for everyone else in the social circle to see. And, just like Facebook, Google Buzz can serve as a showcase for video, photos and Web links to interesting stories. Google Buzz also shows similarities with Twitter, an online communications tool that broadcasts messages of up to 140 characters. A mobile phone application of Google Buzz is particularly Twitter-like: It allows people to see the public updates of other people in the same vicinity.

Google tracks a wild amount of information on each of us as consumers. To me, Google Buzz feels like yet another way for Google to gain more ammo for targeting its search engine and display advertising towards each of us. Similar to how FB ads work, when we enter info about ourselves in the 'about me' section, Google could (and probably will) use that consumer information to target ads towards us. The bottom line: Google, who already offers arguably the best targeting capabilities on the web, is looking more and more like ‘Big Brother’ every day.

In other social media news, Facebook’s new redesigned homepage puts search front and center. Just after its 6th birthday, the largest global social networking portal in the world unveiled a newly redesigned site that positions applications and games to stand out more. Links and items have moved around the home page as Facebook tries to streamline navigation. FB is putting an obvious emphasis on search by making the search bar larger and in the middle of the homepage.

Although Facebook is undergoing a lot of changes, I would be hesitant to buy display advertising on the site. Yes, Facebook offers powerful targeting capabilities by pulling information out of our profiles to serve us specific ads. But, many users see FB as their own personal space, and very well may rebel against a brand. If you are interested in pursuing Facebook advertising, I would suggest testing the waters before committing to a high monthly spend. FB now offers cost-per-click advertising model (you only pay when an ad is clicked, not per 1000 impressions like most display advertising), start with a low monthly spend limit and increase if you are having success.

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