In this guest post, Kara Richards wonders if consumers will be the real winners in the escalating battle of innovation between Facebook and Google.
The arms race between Facebook and Google is heating up.
No longer are they happy to reside in their respective social and search spaces. The battle lines have been drawn, and the battleground appears to be immersive advertising.
Meanwhile, Facebook has been encroaching on Google’s territory, in relation to search, video and ecomm. Who will win?
The battle has been raging for some time – we can all remember Google’s unsuccessful attempt at taking on Facebook’s social offering with Google Plus. But the competition is definitely heating up.
Every time one company launches a new product, the other responds in kind. If we take a look at a couple of products that are hitting the market this year, you’ll see what I mean.
2016 has already shaped up to be a notable year for Facebook. The company has kicked its competitive edge up a notch through its launch of Canvas, a new product which takes engagement and immersion to new levels.
According to Facebook: “Canvas is an immersive and expressive experience on Facebook for businesses to tell their stories and showcase their products.”
Basically, here’s how it works: Businesses can create a ‘Canvas’ by bringing together their own videos and images, which they combine with interactive buttons to create a truly engaging social experience.
The functionality is top notch: “In Canvas, people can swipe through a carousel of images, tilt to view panoramic images and zoom in to view images in detail.”
Businesses can easily build their Canvas using a combination of videos, still images and call-to-action buttons.
People can swipe through a carousel of images, tilt to view panoramic images and zoom in to view images in detail. Canvas is like an alternate version of a brand’s website but will load 10 times faster than the standard m.site and be more interactive because the content is native to Facebook.
While Facebook is creating immersive experiences with Canvas, Google has been creating its own 360-degree video ads with YouTube. The new format allows viewers to explore every angle of a video by dragging their mouse or moving their phone to shift their point of view.
The 360-degree video ads are especially convenient for mobile users because they can simply move their phones up, down, left or right to watch different parts of a clip.
Major brands like Coca-Cola, Stella Artois and Nike have been experimenting with 360-degree video ads on YouTube.
Meanwhile, another salvo Facebook has fired in the ongoing battle is its launch of Atlas, a direct competitor to Google’s DoubleClick ad server.
This uses Facebook ID information to serve display ads across any channel. What’s more, Facebook’s improved search capabilities appear to be a direct challenge to Google’s search dominance.
Immersive ads seem to be the way of the future for Facebook and Google, and apparently so do virtual reality headsets. In March 2014, Facebook acquired the ground breaking company, Oculus VR, for $2 billion.
Oculus has created personal virtual reality goggles called the Oculus Rift. Rift allows you step into the world of your favourite video games, movies and destinations.
Mark Zuckerberg believes Oculus could be the last electronics device that people need to buy. And this time around, Facebook would be the company selling it.
But just around the corner there’s Google, with its Cardboard viewer, that offers virtual reality using just a smartphone and a paper case for as little as $15.
Cardboard is nowhere near as compelling as Oculus, but it’s cheap, approachable and available right now.
It’s clear that Facebook and Google are no longer satisfied with dominating the social and search worlds respectively. As the companies grew to critical mass, they were always going to start cutting each other’s grass, so to speak. Will marketers have to choose sides?
In respect to Facebook, marketers’ long-term plans shouldn’t just include gaming Facebook’s Newsfeed, but on working out how their brands fit in with the social network’s plans to become the platform for the entire internet, and its plans to use people-based targeting through Atlas.
Of course, Facebook faces one problem: its audience. Younger demographics have been on the decline while older demographics are increasing.
With the increase of an older demographic, there has been a surge in usage on alternative social platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and WhatsApp.
A Tech Times article revealed that Facebook’s 93% usage among all social networks dropped to 90% in 2014. Meanwhile, in the last three years Snapchat and Instagram have seen massive leaps in usage with Instagram jumping from 15% to 32%, and Snapchat surging from to 2% to 18%.
Is it possible that Canvas and Oculus could aid in welcoming back younger users to Facebook? Most definitely.
By building more immersive ads and by creating virtual realities with the Rift goggles, younger users will be able to engage in more interactive experiences.
Although many younger users install ad blocks to prevent pop-ups, imagine being able to choose how you move within an ad and choose what you are viewing. It is the way of the future and opens up a whole new exciting world for users, where they are able to customise what they are consuming.
However, those who stand in the Google camp will be able to target a much larger audience through YouTube’s 360-degree video ads, and will be able to target their consumers with a personalised virtual adventure based on the consumer’s likes and preferences with Google Cardboard.
It’s clear that Google and Facebook are two unstoppable juggernauts, and the coming years will see major shifts in search and social, as Facebook starts to eat Google’s lunch in the search and e-comm spaces.
But one thing remains true: as Facebook and Google grow, it will become near impossible for brands to engage with mass audiences without engaging with these two behemoths.
Kara Richards is an Account Director at Atomic 212 Group.