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By Thomas Baekdal - November 2010

Why Google Don't Understand Social

Google is the ultimate master of creating really smart, highly intelligent, and almost magical applications. Their latest product is Boutiques, which matches your fashion preferences to some really smart algorithms that can actually tell the difference between different styles of clothes.

The result is truly spectacular, and is by far the best fashion curation/recommendation engine ever made. Google's engineering skills are top of the class.

Note: Read more about Boutiques in: Google Fashion Shopping Site Makes Debut (NY Times), or in Introducing Boutiques: a new way to shop for fashion online (Google Blog)

Why is it then that Google continually fails at creating social services? The answer is painfully simple. People are individuals, not algorithms.

The very algorithms that enable Google to make their amazing services are also what prevents them from being successful in the social world. People do not want to be put into boxes or to fit a pattern.

We are individuals. Every time a pattern start to emerge we revolt and do something different.

The fashion industry knows this by hearth. Every fashion designer knows that once a style becomes popular that's when you have to design something else. That's why most fashion companies have 12-16 collections per year.

Finding a common pattern is not the path to success when you are dealing with people's individuality. Social is the exact opposite. It is about not being a part of a pattern. It's about being unique and to be able to stand out from the crowd.

Everything that Google does is based on building better and more powerful algorithms. But, the same algorithms prevent them from understanding how social networking works.

This is Google's real problem with social. The closer they get to a person, the more she is likely to revolt against it.

They can use their algorithms to better understand people, and their relation to their friends. This can be the basis for very strong recommendation engines.

But ultimately, social interaction is about not being a part of an algorithm. How can you stand out? What makes you unique? This applies to Google, it applies to you, and it applies to every brand trying to engage with you on social networks.


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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