The Google+ factor: Battling for social network supremacy

August 19, 2011

The President completed a social networking trifecta in July, hostinga Twitter town hall meeting that generated 119,000 #AskObama tweets containing 40,000 unique questions, according to TwitSprout.

The President’s digital communications strategy may focus on balancing activity across several channels, but in the private sector, Facebook, Google and others are waging the battle for social media supremacy.

Migrating, defecting and reflecting
Facebook, Twitter and other networks on the otherwise openly social Web covet a “walled garden” model. Generating the most traffic can likely wield the most influence and yield the most revenue. It’s a successful approach for Facebook with more than 700 million users, most of whom will never feel restricted in a community of such size.

Competition for users is fierce as social media mania settles into normalcy and users can only manage so many profiles. New networks continue to emerge and compete for attention and lucrative market share, defined by impending IPOs and the aforementioned monetization.

Google’s previous attempts to enter the social space with Google Buzz and Google Wave were short lived, but initial hype for its more robust Google+ with Facebook-influenced features like “circles” (groups) and “stream” (newsfeed) has prompted defensive tactics from competitors.

Facebook blocked an exporting tool that allowed users to export contact information to Gmail as well as Google+ related advertisements on its network while Google suspended real-time search that had included Facebook fan page updates and tweets. Facebook also integrated with Skype in what came off as an over-hyped response to the previous week’s Google+ launch mirroring a video chat capability that Google already offered.

Tumblr, the short-form blogging platform, has drawn competitive comparisons with Twitter. In June, former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez declared Tumblr “the next great tool for reports and news organizations.” Likewise, Edelman communications guru Steve Rubel adopted Tumblr after previously using the competing Posterous service. Rubel and Sanchez both admire the blog and social media hybrid that  Tumblr provides, expanding content sharing and curation capabilities beyond Twitter’s 140-character limit.

Of course, these are not the first instances of social media migration. MySpace users defected in droves when Facebook became the social heir apparent.

What do such movements mean for digital communications professionals? Most are not worrisome. Technologies evolve. Communicators must focus on positioning clients where their audience is already, which often means managing presence on several communities.

Keeping abreast of each network’s maneuvers is helpful for counseling clients appropriately, and clear thinking can guide you the rest of the way.

Navigating your way
Committing to social media means managing a network of networks. It’s a heavy workload for big brands and niche players alike. In this column, we’ve evaluated strategies and tools that can help.

• Popularity trumps allegiance. Critical mass is not difficult to identify even when it shifts. Standing out is the real challenge, so focus on message and differentiation matter regardless of location.
• Social networks are evolving and new ones emerge constantly. Evaluating your options is healthy, but when one social network is working for you resist the urge to change it.
• Technology and complacency don’t mix. Embrace change.

For further reading on PR Tactics: Your Goggle+ scorecard

Ryan Zuk, APR

Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at

Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com


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