Two of the biggest players in the social space, Facebook and Google, recently announced huge changes to their social media platforms. Facebook announced that videos that showed up in their users’ newsfeeds would now auto-play in certain instances. This includes sponsored videos from advertisers. Google announced that it was integrating Google Plus with Gmail so that any G Plus user could send an email to the Gmail account of any other G Plus user. Each of these moves has touched off a firestorm of criticism.
Facebook users already believe there is too much advertising on the site. By introducing a disruptive marketing tactic like auto-play ads, Facebook is guaranteed to earn the ire of its users — particularly users who have been critical of the brand’s previous efforts to monetize the platform with disruptive advertising. Google continues to try to push its social site even though the belief persists that Google Plus is a social media ghost town. For Google, this is just the latest in a string of controversial moves aimed at driving engagement on Google Plus.
When you hang around with marketers and advertisers long enough, you start to hear phrases like “your fans own your brand,” meaning that it’s important to give fans what they want and to try, in meaningful ways, to help them better their lives. With this attitude so prevalent, why would popular companies like Google and Facebook make moves like those described above?
Well there are a few reasons:
Especially in the case of auto-play ads on Facebook, it is important to remember that these are companies we are talking about and not charitable organizations. They are always and will always be looking to their bottom line. Google sees Google Plus as absolutely essential to its future as more internet users opt to use social sites for search. Google wants us to use Google Plus for social searches.
They are 800-pound gorillas and they can do whatever they want.
Facebook and Google are both huge companies that make insane amounts of money. They each believe that their users are loyal enough that it is safe to do something every once in awhile that may irritate those users.
Each company is concerned with staying ahead of their competition.
Google wants to be the industry leader in social search. Facebook knows that video sharing is becoming more and more popular. Neither wants to be on the losing end of industry changes and disruptions.
The question becomes: Are these the kinds of moves that Google and Facebook should really be making? In the short-term they are sure to see some benefit. Facebook will increase their ad revenue. Google will drive engagement. In the long run however, it is probably not good for them to take actions that irritate not just their casual fans, but their hardcore evangelists as well. These are the people even big companies need on their side, and Google and Facebook needs them just as much as any other company.