The data is clear: in addition to its wildly successful social video platform YouTube, Google (now part of the Alphabet holding company) should acquire another engaging social media platform to become a great distribution platform for the its global advertising network. That’s because three other social networks that it created — Orkut, Buzz, and Google+ — failed miserably.
The bigger question is which social network would bring Google the most value and synergies?
Here’s a look at three social media unicorns that Google could buy: Twitter, SnapChat, and Pinterest, and a recommendation on which would be the best.
Whatever Wall Street’s thoughts are about Twitter, the San Francisco-based social network would complement Google’s ecosystem. Twitter’s platform combines messaging, ads, video, and photos – all channels where Google excels.
Perhaps the most important reason for Google’s holding company Alphabet to acquire Twitter is so that it can add 9 years of tweets to its treasure trove of search data. The current partnership between Google and Twitter appears to involve just real time content, not historical tweets. Acquiring nearly a decade of content would give Google hundreds of billions of data points. The more tweets it would have to search, the more ad revenue Google could generate.
With roughly 80% of Twitter’s active users relying on their smartphones and tablets to tweet, the company would bring serious street cred to Google’s local and mobile search. Twitter also owns the Periscope live streaming and Vine video platforms – more great content for Google search and ads.
The social media network has a rich history of helping mobile users push for political reform and share breaking news worldwide. The phrase ‘Twitter Revolution’ came of age during the Arab Spring, Iran’s 2009 presidential election protests, and Ukraine’s Euromaidan Revolution. That fits nicely with Google’s corporate mantra, “don’t be evil.”
Data on Twitter’s Android app shows decent, but not stellar U.S. engagement. The company’s share of Daily Active Users (DAU) is far less than Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. Even though the percentage of people who have Twitter on their Android devices is higher than WhatsApp and SnapChat, people who have these competing social media apps use them more often.
In the last three months (May – July, 2015), Twitter’s website had an average of 2.6 billion global monthly online visits and 14.8 billion page views (PVs). About 39% of this traffic was from smartphones and tablets.
At first glance, the social look-book’s mobile and desktop platforms seem like they would be nice additions to Google, benefitting the company, advertisers, and brands alike. Another bonus is that marketers love Pinterest for its ease of search and long-tail keyword content: things that major social networks like Facebook and Twitter currently lack.
Pinterest’s website traffic data for the last three months shows a monthly average of 614 million combined global mobile and desktop visits and 3.9 billion PVs. About 38% of that traffic was from smartphones and tablets. Desktop users spend almost nine minutes browsing the site, another boon for brands and marketers.
Pinterest’s mobile app has lower DAU and install rates than Twitter, with users spending roughly four minutes browsing content that they and others curate. These metrics show that the platform has plenty of room to grow.
While it’s still too early to know whether Pinterest’s new ‘Buy it’ pins product will generate significant revenue, this could be a potential synergy for Google, especially since the Silicon Valley giant is adding a ‘buy’ button to search. Another good fit would be the millions of Pinterest images in Google’s search database.
Pinterest is like a combination of Houzz, Polyvore, and Instagram all rolled into one: a platform where users share and receive home design, fashion, and ‘must have’ ideas about their lifestyle. Not surprisingly, Pinterest’s demographics reveal that its American user base is largely female, educated, with generally above average incomes.
One of the most popular social apps used by teens and millennials is SnapChat. Its engagement metrics are through the roof, averaging nearly 14 sessions per user and a DAU rate of 45%.
Despite its popularity, SnapChat would not be a smart acquisition for Google. The app’s users would mutiny if their disappearing text and pictures were ever added to Google’s search data. Not only would that be the end of SnapChat, it could seriously tarnish the reputation of Alphabet and Google.
A deal between Google and SnapChat could boost the app’s inconsistent ad revenue, a much less risky way for the Alphabet unit to work with the popular tech company rather than through an outright acquisition.
So Which Platform Should Google Spring For?
With the exception of buying YouTube, Google has a poor history of growing social networks that people actually want to use. Orkut and Buzz were early failures, and it’s all but put the last nail in the coffin of Google+. Even the company’s general counsel acknowledged that Google+ was one of a “painfully long list of unsuccessful Google products.”
That’s why it’s time for Google to acquire a proven social network that has the best chance of being integrated into the search and ad giant’s existing ecosystem.
Based on Twitter’s website and app metrics, the company’s extensive global presence, and the possibility of adding nine (9) years of tweets to Google’s search database, Alphabet should buy it.
While Pinterest created a social media platform that its users like, Google has no experience operating a lifestyle shopping network. While the Mountain View company makes its core revenue from text, rich media, and video ads, running a social scrapbook appears quite risky. Neither does buying SnapChat, an app that is fundamentally about disappearing, non-searchable content. That’s a model completely at odds with Google’s search mantra.
Google needs to buy a social network with a large worldwide reach that’s working well, but needs help generating revenue. Twitter fits the bill.