Google Reveals Why It’s Jealous of Facebook

by Russ Hill on June 2, 2011

Eric Schmidt D9

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said some very interesting things on stage this week at the D9 tech conference.

He made two statements that are generating a lot of headlines. First, he accepted responsibility as the former CEO of Google for “screwing up” in the world of social media. He blamed “being busy” on his lack of innovation in the social space while Mark Zuckerberg built the Facebook empire.

The second statement Schmidt made that’s being discussed widely is his classification of a “gang of four” tech companies that he sees as ruling today. They are Google (of course), Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

Both of those statements are worth discussing. But, I want to zero in on something else he said that’s not generating much attention.

The Money Quote

It was when Schmidt was talking about Facebook in a jealous sort of way. He identified Facebook’s key advantage over Google right now as “[Facebook] knows who you are.”

Think about that.

We take that for granted and don’t give it much thought.  A few years ago the only site on the internet that knew you was Amazon or some other retail site that you frequented. And, all they really knew about you was your purchase history with them, your address, and your credit card number.

Maybe a few discussion websites or news sites you registered at knew your name and had a photo you uploaded. But, they didn’t really KNOW YOU.

Then, came Facebook.

Facebook Knows You

Facebook knows a TON about you. It knows where you live, your age, your friends, what brands you like, your relatives, who you are the most interested in, where you vacationed, what industry you’re in, what company you work for, what school you went to, and increasingly it knows where you eat, work out, shop, etc.

Some of you read that last paragraph and felt a pit in your stomach. You’re about ready to delete your Facebook profile picture in fear someone will see you at the grocery store and want to kidnap your child.

For those of us who aren’t privacy paranoids this doesn’t concern us.

Schmidt went on to say at D9 that if Google knew as much about you as Facebook does then it could deliver a whole different level of search results for you.

And, that my friends, is only a matter of time.

Search and Social Merging

That is the main reason Larry Page kicked Schmidt out of the CEO’s office and retook control of it. Google will not survive if it doesn’t soon learn who you are. The company’s future depends on it.

Today I helped a friend purchase a new digital camcorder. He had no idea what he should buy. Imagine if he could have Googled “digital camcorder” and saw the reviews his Facebook friends had written. You don’t think that would have influenced his purchasing decision?

I spent the last 15 years in the world of traditional media where advertisers pay huge amounts of money to send their message to faceless people.  In traditional media we could have never imagined going to our clients with all the kinds of information about our audience that Facebook knows about theirs.

I spend a lot of time these days talking to clients about the coming merge of search and social.  I preach how critical it is for companies to build strong reputations in both search and social because of the competitive advantage it will give them when these two industries collide. Success in marketing a brand will soon depend on how well a company has grasped this coming shift and what they’ve done to prepare for it.

Eric Schmidt’s comments this week at D9 made me realize that shift is likely coming sooner than I had thought.

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