Peter Cashmore, founder of Mashable (the leading blog on social media) wrote for his CNN column the predictions about 2011. Among his comments, one that appears very interesting is the opinion that Facebook will have a better 2011 than Google. It is something that today looks less surprising than some years ago when everybody thought that the inevitable future of Facebook would be being bought by “someone like Google”. It seems that 2011 will show us, for the first time, the image of two giants that can face each other, not anymore like a David and a Goliath.
The interesting part is trying to understand what is giving Facebook its leadership and, likewise what is making that Google looses part of his “absolute winner” halo we were used to. The first thing that Facebook has done really well is to understand the human beings and evolve with them to make Facebook keep being a space for their interests. With that, it has created a singular knowledge and a unique targeting platform unknown so far in the Human history. As stated by Cashmore: “Facebook will understand both our social connections and our interests, providing the holy grail of targeted advertising”.
But what will make that Facebook maintains its relevancy not just for the advertisers but for users is to keep building that public space that allows us getting together, meet each other, identify and express ourselves. It is, in many senses, that new agora that provides that space for social interaction (with even a political role, further than the social or commercial functions). Facebook is much more than a space for gossips. I would say it is the most relevant public space (and obviously the largest) in Human history. When Places (the geo localization application launched this year) becomes more global, it would be even more evident that it is that public space where the difference between virtual and real worlds turns irrelevant.
2011 for Google will be very interesting, mainly because the penetration of Android and all the applications that enhace people´s life on the go. Now, according to rumors quoted by Cashmore, Google would be interested on creating a platform for competing with Facebook. But the main difference between them is that Google has mastered metrics and deep knowledge on how people behave on the web, sometimes forgetting that behind all those figures there are people, not geeks but human beings that more than useful tools are looking for spending more enjoyable time on the web. Wave was a good example of this. Even that it had really good comments from experts, people did not know what to do with it.
Other, on the contrary, such as HBR in its Six Social Media Trends for 2011, forecast that Google, far from creating their own Facebook or their own Twitter, will make that they know best: Index them. Make that conversations on both have better options of accessing to potentiate their value.
Now, in my opinion, the most important challenge for Facebook will be surviving to their own success. Avoid loosing the essence for trying to be everything for everybody, loosing novelty or get into rejection as a super powerful leader, mainly if it gets to the trap of arrogance. So far it looks that it won´t as its great virtue is to deeply understand the connection between people and technology. Understanding the importance that has for anybody to know if their friend is single or married, if it has friends in common or if it looked good on the picture of the party. This understanding is and always will be the best army agains irrelevance or rejection.
Well, the interesting part of 2011 will be discovering two giants with so different profiles but with competitive and complementary spaces that will show us a lot about the digital future. It will be very interesting to analyze platforms vs contents, advertising and spaces for brands relevance as part of the purchasing process, not only on search but also on entertainment and socialization spaces. Who will have a better 2011? The debate is open.