Why Google Shouldn’t Copy Facebook – Google Me #Fail

Michael Arrington TechCrunch founder, has a post up today where he suggests that Google needs to copy Facebook, or clone it to be exact.

They need to raise the white flag and just copy Facebook right down to the details. Otherwise the war is over before Google even got to the battlefield. -Michael Arrington

Arrington’s argument is Facebook is making inroads on Googles self serve ad business and if Google wants to compete they need to play Facebook’s game better than Facebook. Arrington suggests it’s not improbable by 2015 Facebook and Google could be running neck and neck. I’m not sure I agree or disagree with Arrington’s 2015 prognostication, but what I am pretty sure is, Google’s not going to stem any Facebook tide by cloning them.

The reason Arrington’s plan won’t work is because of the simple rule of sales — there needs to be user value. There is no value to users in cloning Facebook.

Google needs a horse in the social networking race to be able to defend itself against Facebook over the long run. And the only way they’re going to be able to compete effectively is to just clone the darn thing.

The value in social networks IS the network. It won’t matter how many new features or bells and whistles Google can add on top of the “clone”.   They won’t make a lick of difference without the network.

Yes, Facebook blew up in a crowded social networking space. They took MySpace out of the game. The difference between then and now is that social media was in the growth stage of the product or business life-cycle. Millions and millions of people were still deciding if social networking was for them. They were the late majority. This late majority were our Mom’s, Dad’s, Grandparents, business professionals etc. Feeling Myspace was too juvenile this late majority chose Facebook.  Facebook took social networking mainstream.

Social networking has now entered the mature stage. Only late, late majority and the laggards remain. This means that Google has to convince Facebook users to switch and that ain’t gonna happen for a clone with a few extra features. The value is the network. No network, no value. There will need to be a seminal event or trigger to drive the switch.

The main value in Facebook is everyone  expects everyone they know or once knew to be on the site. Switching to a site where this doesn’t exist and then wait for their friends to show up is going to take a lot more than clone with improved privacy settings and an easy export tool.

Arrington is thinking like a technologist.  Clone and offer a few cool new features and functions and it will sell. Unfortunately, like almost every other sale, features and functions don’t sell, value does.  In this case the value is the network and Google can’t control that.

The other challenge Arrington misses, is users are more than engaged, they are INVESTED.  They have invested time and in some cases money in followers, pages, applications, games and more.  Users will not just simply walk away from that level of investment and start over for a clone.

I think Google needs to think like a start-up and innovate.  Don’t clone, but get ahead of Facebook. There is always a next something. There was Friendster, then there was Myspace, then there was Facebook, then there was Twitter, then there was Foursquare, what’s next? That is what Google should be focused on. Not trying to be Facebook. That is so 2007.

Google — build a new network, don’t try to steal someone else’s. It’s much easier.

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