Why Google may not ‘Like’ Facebook’s social plugins

8 Jul 2010

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Facebook’s ‘Like’ function – which has been implemented on more than 100,000 websites worldwide after just six weeks – presents a major challenge to Google because ‘Like’ is rapidly becoming an index of content that is based on ‘popularity’ rather than algorithms.

That’s according to Charles Nicholls, founder and chief strategy officer of social media consultancy SeeWhy.

“Some eight weeks ago, Facebook announced its Open Graph and social plugins,” Nicholls said. “By almost any measure, this can be considered one of the most successful launches in history. Within 24 hours, Facebook had served 1 billion ‘Likes.’ Within one week, Facebook Like had been implemented on 50,000 websites. After only six weeks, more than 100,000 sites had implemented Facebook Like. Wow.

“With Like, Facebook is set to challenge Google. Like is rapidly becoming an index of content on the web, where the index is built based on mass popularity as opposed to an arbitrary Google algorithm. The impact of this cannot be underestimated.”

Nicholls said that Facebook is the No 1 website in the world by page views and already refers more than twice the traffic to news and media sites than Google. Web users spend more time on Facebook than all the time spent on Google, Yahoo!, YouTube, Microsoft/Bing, Wikipedia and Amazon combined.

SEO for social commerce

“If Facebook is the next Google, then Facebook’s social plugins are your ‘SEO’ tool kit for optimising social commerce. Of these, Facebook Like is, by far, the most important — and also the easiest to implement with just one line of HTML.”

SeeWhy surveyed almost 500 e-marketers on the impact of the ‘Like’ social plugin. Almost seven out of 10 of the e-marketers surveyed have already implemented Facebook Like or plan to implement it.

“Since it is just as easy to unlike content, e-marketers need to be responsible about how they use ‘Like’,” Nicholls advised. “Sending a stream of irrelevant posts to your new fan’s wall will result in a very quick ‘Unlike.’

“Next in priority for e-marketers’ implementations is Facebook ‘Login with Faces’ (which replaces Facebook Connect). Facebook Login enables visitors to log into their Facebook accounts on e-commerce websites with their Facebook credentials rather than creating site-specific accounts. It’s so easy to do that Facebook reports that site visitors are three times more likely to use Login than create a specific website account. “

Fifteen per cent of the e-marketers surveyed had already implemented Facebook Login, with a further 18pc planning to do so.

“That one-third of e-marketers plan (or already offer) Facebook Login on their websites is significant. One of the reasons is that a user signing in with Facebook Login is consenting to share their personal details with the website. This opt-in is very valuable, and e-marketers know this.

“Once opted in, on-site activity can be tracked and associated with an identity, and following a session, the individual fan can be remarketed to via email. This has long been high up the wish list: to be able to market to Facebook visitors with special offers and promotions.

“This new capability will have to be used responsibly since the opt-in permission is controlled by the fan in his/her account settings; so it’s easy to un-login, although not as intuitive as many of the more vocal Facebook privacy advocates would like,” Nicholls said.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com