Posted by: NicoleList on July 20, 2011
Part of what makes social media such a timeless topic is its inherent inability to remain static. The recent release of Google+ as fellow intern Jenna discussed in her intern blog last week, is a great example: in a world where Facebook seemed to have dominated true social networking, the exponentially rising popularity of Google+ completely removed any perceptions about the end of innovation in that field. This phenomenon raised a question for me this week, that I struggled to solve – Is social media really an ever-changing area? Or is Google itself the true key to the continued success of the field?
TNR published an article about Google on Wednesday, claiming that “writing about Google presents an almost insurmountable challenge. To understand the company and its impact, one needs to have a handle on computer science, many branches of philosophy (from epistemology to ethics), information science, cyberlaw, media studies, sociology of knowledge, public policy, economics, and even complexity theory.” Although it’s true that the impact of Google far outreaches those of its competitors, I found myself wondering if it was really all that complicated to understand what had made the search engine giant into a verb, a go-to, a proper noun and a cultural monument, all at once.
The fact is, Google’s popularity rests in its ability to incorporate the needs of the various individuals who use the Internet daily. A large part of working with an interactive agency means that we specialize, and have colleagues who specialize: Daniel works with Photoshop and design, Jason does the research necessary to identify target demographics and organizes the information he collects, Chris works with what is essentially the psychology of the human mind in order to come up with catchy phrases and taglines, and so on. We are successful because we are a team of specialized members, working towards a common goal: a logo, an advertising campaign, a marketing proposal – in essence, the creation of a brand. From there is it up to the interactive division to give the brand a voice, announce it to the world and build a community of valued consumers around it.
Google works much like LGD, in that sense. The TNR article describes the pre-Google cyberspace in vivid detail: “Optimists remember the age before Google as chaotic, inefficient and disorganized. Most search engines at the time had poor ethics (some made money by misrepresenting ads as search results) and terrible algorithms (some could not even find their parent companies online).” With the advent of Google, then, what came along was essentially a team of specialized workers – algorithm-makers, mathematicians, marketers, advertisers, normal men and women – who came together as a team in order to present one unified front, dedicated to pleasing the casual Web surfer. As the years progressed, Google added applications like Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Labs, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and now, Google+.
Google is successful because it’s managed to do what everyone else is trying to do – identify and address consumer needs – only on a larger scale within one, easy-to-find scope. The Internet brought all of the information in the world to our very fingertips. Google has merely finished the job by subsidizing that information into one easily accessible and aesthetically pleasing site.
Faced with this conclusion, my original question changes. Social media is clearly still changing – Google itself is a measure of that, with its consistent efforts to stay three steps ahead, and the introduction of new initiatives. Google isn’t just keeping up, though – it’s beginning to stunt the growth of other social media channels with its massive branding campaigns and new projects. Although I seriously doubt that Google will be able to stem the flow of or provide for every site and application found on the Internet, it’s still definitely an interesting phenomenon to note.
Google World Domination
Despite all of this, there is one thing that Google is rather shakily finding to be difficult – its implementation of Google+ has neglected to recognize the fact that people, even web-addicted people, aren’t always comfortable with change. While many of us (myself included) have added Google+ accounts, the layout is simply too familiar. I have a Facebook account – why do I need two, especially if, as far as I’m concerned, one is vastly superior to the other?
Only time will tell if Google wins this battle, but for now, it looks like the war is steadily being won.