The Social Analyst is a weekly column by Mashable Co-Editor Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.
It's an interesting phenomenon, when you think about it. Large tech companies have had limited to no success creating their own social media home runs. In an era where communication is increasingly taking place on these channels, the inability of these digital giants to build social networks is rather striking.
Two titans in particular are making social media headlines for different reasons: Yahoo has decided not to create it own social network, but is instead striking partnership deals with Facebook and Twitter. Google on the other hand, not only bought YouTube, but it is attempting to carve out its own piece of the social media pie with Google Buzz.
Partnership vs. in-house development; content vs. technology; Yahoo vs. Google: which company has the right social media strategy? What are the goals of both companies in the social realm? Do either have a chance against new and nimble startups like Facebook and Twitter?
Let's take a look, shall we?
The Yahoo Strategy: Partner in Order to Drive Traffic
In 2006, Yahoo made a $1+ billion bid for Facebook. As we all know, Yahoo failed to close that deal and the story ever since has been the rise of Facebook and the slow decline of Yahoo, who was nearly acquired by Microsoft for over $40 billion in 2008.
Now with new leadership (led by CEO Carol Bartz), Yahoo is trying to make a turnaround and bring back some of the authority it once commanded. The Internet portal is turning to social media as a cornerstone of its growth strategy, but it isn't focused on acquiring a Twitter or building its own social network, but on creating partnerships that integrate every facet of Yahoo into social networks, primarily Facebook and Twitter.
In September 2009, Yahoo announced that it would integrate Facebook Connect in its most popular web properties. The goal was to truly make Yahoo your portal to the web by not only delivering news, email, and finances, but also your social graph and the status updates of your friends. On the flip side, Yahoo would also benefit from the traffic bump that comes with sharing articles and content on Facebook's news feed.
Yahoo has continued to push this partnership strategy in recent months. Two weeks ago, Yahoo partnered with Twitter to give users access to their Twitter feed from within Yahoo, update their status, and integrate Twitter content into the company's search and media properties. A few days ago, Yahoo Mail hooked up with Facebook, the first integration between Facebook Connect and Yahoo.
Yahoo seems content in partnering with the major social services, rather than compete with them. Social media efforts like Yahoo Buzz, the tech giant's answer to Digg, which hasn't made a dent in the social voting powerhouse, have likely left a bitter taste in the mouths of its executives. Yahoo is now focused on using social media to generate traffic, eyeballs, and engagement times.
The Google Strategy: Dominate
Google's strategy goes in a completely different direction to Yahoo's approach; its strategy is also all over the map.
Like Yahoo, Google doesn't have a good record in social media. Google Friend Connect isn't even close to Facebook Connect in terms of adoption, Orkut never made inroads in the U.S., Blogger has nowhere near the traction of WordPress, and other acquisitions such as Jaiku and Dodgeball haven't panned out.
You'd have a very good argument if you said that Google's only social media hit has been YouTube, and that "only" cost the company $1.65 billion. Google has a lot more social properties than many people realize, but it's a hodgepodge of acquisitions (Blogger, YouTube, Picasa and internally-created services Orkut, Google Knol, Friend Connect). The company's batting average, though, has been pretty poor, especially by Google's standards.