Is Facebook Driving Users to Google+?

Google’s fledgling social network, Google+ is still in its testing phase, but has already racked up more than 10 million members and almost universally positive — even glowing — reviews.

This is certainly a far cry from Facebook’s mighty 750 million users accumulated over the last 7 years, but recent moves on Facebook’s part make Facebook appear to be running scared… and in the process actually pushing some users to Google+.

Facebook’s Fear of Google

Facebook’s fear of Google’s social network possibilities started before the public announcement of Google+, when Facebook covertly hired a PR firm to try to bash Google’s privacy policies in the press. This backfired as the PR firm fumbled it’s attempts to be sneaky and we ended up with many public stories about Facebook’s attempted smear campaign, which also highlighted Facebook’s privacy policies — all the same or far worse than what they were trying to attack Google for.

Then, rather amazingly in my eye, Facebook hired the same firm again after Google+ launched to attempt the same kind of smear campaign, and they fumbled again in the same way (blatantly approaching bloggers and offering to write articles for them and place them in major newspapers) and were caught again, creating more bad publicity.

More recently Facebook has been breaking any functionality that allows linking of Google+ and Facebook, in particular the ability to export your Facebook contacts to make it easier to important them into Google+. One of the interesting side-effects of this is they’ve made it so the only practical way to link the two networks is to have your Google+ account update Facebook, rather than the reverse. So in practice people who want to have both social networks are forced to use Google+ as the primary interface they use.

User Satisfaction Study

The 2011 American Customer Satisfaction Index  e-business report recently came out, and reports on user satisfaction with 226 private-sector companies.

Facebook is in the bottom 6% of companies in the index, with only 14 other companies with scores as low or lower than Facebook. This puts Facebook in the same category as cable companies and some utilities for the lowest user satisfaction.

Google, on the other hand, currently ranks at the very top of the list delivering the highest user satisfaction. Now, the data in this report predates the launch of the Google+ social network, but it’s a strong indication of the satisfaction with the Google brand in general, and the dissatisfaction with the Facebook brand.

With social media thriving on what’s new and Google’s user satisfaction leaps and bounds above Facebook’s, Google is well positioned to take a bite out of Facebook — even without Facebook’s perception of reactionary paranoia and fear helping to drive people to Google+.

Who Will Win?

At this stage of the game what Facebook really needs to do to compete with Google+ is to improve their privacy policies and transparency (something Facebook is very much against) and quickly implement the easy, intuitive Google Circles method for easily controlling who information is shared with, and what information you see in your feed.

I think the success of Google+ is largely dependent on whether Facebook is nimble enough to implement Google’s improvements before the mass migration begins.

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