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Battle of the social media titans

Big companies don’t move that rapidly. They are lumbering sump wrestlers that move slowly and continually bulk up to be big enough to move the titan on the other side of the mat. As you look at how the social media market is evolving, you can see the lines being drawn. Google is on one side. Large enough to go it alone, Google has it all, between search dominance, YouTube, Blogger, Picasso, and now the Google+ social network. And Google has the cash to buy or build whatever it doesn’t have. Google is certainly gunning for top dog status in social. But have you been watching the other titans line up? here is no other company that can take down Google on its own, so they are allying with each other to bulk up, corporate-style. So, just who is trying to take Google down, and who is being left out of the party?

Figure of 2 sumo wrestlers, Ashmolean Museum, ...

Image by mira66 via Flickr

You can probably guess that Facebook is out to dethrone Google. And have you noticed who is Facebook’s favorite ally lately? Microsoft, also avowed enemy of Google. Bing licenses Facebook’s data for its real-time search and Facebook is using Microsoft’s new Skype acquisition for its video calling feature.

Bing also powers Yahoo!’s search engine, allying with another long-time Google enemy.

But even though Bing has made huge strides in stealing market share from Google, it is still a money loser, that some say would be better off sold away by Microsoft.
I am in a different camp, and Microsoft seems to show no sign of giving up. In fact, is it possible that Twitter’s recent withdrawal from Google search results a precursor to showing up in Bing?

To me, there is a clear ABG (Anyone But Google) faction emerging. Google tried to buy Twitter and Groupon and failed, although both companies might someday regret that decision. I am fascinated by a company out there that seems like a real wild card: Apple.

Apple has made some attempts at social media which have flopped, but it has a growing presence in desktop operating systems and perhaps the strongest position in mobile devices. Apple has never been much for alliances and competes with both Microsoft and Google, so what will Apple do? Apple has long had a relationship with Microsoft over the Apple versions of Microsoft Office and was very close to Google before the Android operating system started to take off. If Apple ventures into one camp or the other, that could be a real swinger.

But is there an even bigger set of deals afoot? So, far, social media has been largely fought on the consumer side, but what happens if B2B gets into the game? What happens if large software companies such as IBM or Oracle throw in on one side or the other, or create a third side? Is someone going to acquire LinkedIn?

Whatever happens, understand that just as the horse-race reporters once ranked PC makers and operating systems, or search engine market share, now things are a lot muddier. How do you even calculate social media market share? And how do you even identify what kind of market share Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have when many people use all three?

Perhaps the easiest way to keep score is by company revenue. By that count, Google is winning, Microsoft is large but not growing very fast, Facebook is relatively small but growing, and Twitter is looking a bit lose at the moment. Don’t be surprised if some of these companies ally more closely or even combine, or be surprised if Google tries again to buy one of the big ones in the ABG alliance or on the periphery. Whatever happens, it will be a while before any of these wrestlers get shoved out of the ring.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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