Is Google Making Facebook Socially Awkward?

I don’t know what to think about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg purchasing a neon light for his office door spelling out “Lockdown.” Could it be in part a response to Google’s social networking obsession lately (specifically, the purchase of companies like Slide and Jambool — both potential pieces of the Google Me puzzle)?

That being said, Zuckerberg seems a little skittish, hence the lockdown of his programmers with the sole task of making Facebook “better” over the next 60-plus days.

When is the last time you heard Google jump into lockdown mode? The key to their perceived ease is consistency. Google’s releases are never life changing as much as they are many (more than 150 betas per year), so the perceived “newness” keeps the product timely without having to reinvent the brand every 12 months.

People weren’t enthused by Facebook’s interface changes this year. My hope is that “lockdown” doesn’t mean that it may change them again. Here are a few things that could help their efforts to stay afloat.

Facebook Point of Integration

Facebook has made a number of solid partnerships. The Pandora Radio integration is non-intrusive (opt-in) and fairly engaging. They have also tied into Yelp, which shows friends’ recent activity and reviews.

Will Facebook eventually tie this type of cross-friend engagement into real-time search? Would it be socially convincing to search for a specific restaurant on Bing (and eventually Yahoo) shortly to find three or more friends who reviewed the restaurant within your behaviorally targeted search results?

Zuckerberg and team need to continue establishing these types of partnerships. Although user experience is key, people truly have a hard time with change.

Google, You Data-hounds

The DoubleClick acquisition, plus Google Analytics, truly put Google miles ahead of Facebook. They have vertical insights, more behavioral data than the CIA, and deep onsite statistics for some of the largest brands (blogs, social sites, etc.).

Facebook needs to continue to focus on data infrastructure and reporting output, specifically across their integrated network of sites. How are consumers interacting with the network? What keywords are these consumers searching on Bing?

Future Search

Facebook needs to be involved in other channels, including search — I “like” that promotion; John Smith “likes” this brand.

Friendly search is inevitable. Google’s stronghold on the search market isn’t soon to change; however, we should expect Facebook to further influence our social search.

Should Facebook provide more robust search functionality within the interface? Bing integration should be somewhere in their development cycle.

How does Facebook work itself into localized search (think: “pizza nearby…” + friends reviews + fan count + “like” status).

Facebook will maintain its identity through careful consideration of the marketplace and a devout focus to under-advertising. This isn’t about onsite aesthetics — this is about evolving the way we externally socialize with the network itself.

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