Google's social media strategy raises questions

Eden Zoller and Neha Dharia/Ovum
06 Sep 2010
00:00
OvumGoogle’s acquisition of SocialDeck at the end of August made it the 11th social media related company Google has snapped up so far this year – five of them in August alone. The buying spree raises questions as to where Google is heading with its much-anticipated play in social networking, particularly as many of the recent ones, including SocialDeck, are gaming specialists, suggesting that Google sees gaming as a cornerstone of its social media strategy. There is value in this but what Google needs, and what is not yet evident, is a coherent strategy for social networking that pulls together the disjointed pieces of its growing social media portfolio.
The absence of a well-defined social media strategy is particularly conspicuous because Google has proven so adept at harnessing other parts of the digital media value chain, and in areas that are not its traditional core capabilities – notably mobile device platforms, applications, and more recently Internet TV.
Social networks are important for Google because they have potential capabilities that are at the heart of its overarching strategy: to harness advertising revenues. Stronger ones are also showing promise as software and services platforms, as demonstrated by Facebook and Twitter, while the increasing emphasis on mobile is also aligned with Google’s interests.
Google already has numerous social media assets to draw on, but the problem is that they are largely fragmented, with no underpinning framework or a front end to pull them together beyond search. The most obvious social asset is Orkut, which has more than 100 million active users worldwide. Alongside this there is Google Friend Connect, an OpenSocial application for connecting social and non-social websites. Other related assets include Google Groups, Google Blog Search, Google Profiles, and Aardvark for social search. Google can also add location-related services to the social mix: Google Latitude, Maps, Street View, and Buzz. Then there is YouTube, which while not strictly a social network does major on user-generated content and has community features.

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