Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin whilst studying at Stanford University. The company’s mission statement was, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Google has been said to actively inspire creativity within their employees which has resulted in many other Google Projects to appear over the years. The most influential of which are centered on Google becoming a social network with the introduction of Google+, the Google+ button and integrated social features to some of their biggest projects. This has not only affected Google Searches’ algorithms but has sparked controversy surrounding the way Google handles a user’s personal data.
Google is an organisation who handles many different brands additional from Google search, this article shall be focusing on Google’s effort to remain as the search brand, rather than its other products which focus on content creation and creativity (such as YouTube, Google+, Google Documents and Google Picasa).
A result of a consumer survey this year into brand reputation which focused on brand trust, favourability, success, service quality and general standing revealed Google to be named the top UK brand for reputation. In terms of Business to Consumer (B2C) brand reputation Google has many stakeholders to take into consideration, the primary ones being:
- Employees (many of their employees are internal developers)
Other than Google’s B2C stakeholders their main Business to Business (B2B) stakeholders are Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Facebook but for the objective of this article only B2C stakeholders shall be analysed. Google depends heavily upon its brand reputation due to its positioning within the technology marketplace as a provider of services. For this reason Google feels it necessary to adopt radical transparency in the form of their regularly updated Google Transparency Report.
Google uses a range of online communication tools to communicate with stakeholders:
Google Blog (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/)
The official Google Blog is regularly updated on a daily basis and is hosted by their own BlogSpot network. Posts are varied and range from service announcements, new releases, product updates, media coverage, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) topics and competitions. Interestingly the Google Blog does not adopt a symmetrical communication model as comments have been disabled but all of the posts have been shared by users. It is likely that the main function of the official Google blog is to provide a news feed for businesses, consumers and secondary news sources (such as Mashable, TechCrunch and Gizmodo).
Google Twitter Feed (https://twitter.com/google)
Google’s Twitter feed boasts over 3.8 million followers but shows no sign of active engagement with the Twitter community. Much of the content from the Official Google Blog can be found linked on their Twitter feed.
Google Facebook Page (http://www.facebook.com/Google)
Facebook seems to be the only social media platform where Google seems to encourage active engagement with the community. It is facinating to see how Google uses a fierce competitor’s platform in order to raise their own brand reputation. Futhermore Facebook does not allow online advertisments on their system to promote a competitor’s network and so Google’s approach in Facebook seems like an effective way to generate engagement away from the risk of being banned from Facebook’s advertisement system.
Google maintains a social presence online but mainly relies upon 3rd party sources for their brand reputation. Popular blogs such as Mashable, TechCrunch and GizModo regularly feature Google related stories (some of which may have been regurgitated from the Official Google blog). However Google rarely shows active stakeholder engagement which indicates a lack of effort into their digital Public Relations despite being one of the market leaders for online communication platforms. Over the years many Google projects have been discontinued due to not achieving the critical mass and user interactions necessary for projects to be successful. The question is not so much the purpose of the tools Google create but instead the digital Public Relations strategies behind promotions. Lack of PR has seen the death of Google Lively, Google Answers, Orkut, Google Health and Google Buzz.
The Google I/O conference is one of the company’s main Public Relations events which shows engagement with their development community and innovative users – these conferences are handled by outside Public Relations agencies which explains the sharp increase in media coverage prior to these events. Google, as a global brand, do protect their brand reputation in event of crisis management. As their transparency report indicates the company adopts radical transparency and will locally run Public Relations campaigns to lobby governments to protect their activities in each country. An example of this would be in 2009 when Google’s dominance in the market place was being questioned by authors, advertisers, website owners and politicians. The crisis invoked Google to target the relevant stakeholders and to directly discuss matters with advertisers, reporters, academics and lawmakers. This indicates that Google will manage their brand reputation but only when that reputation is being questioned.
1. Adopt symmetrical communication across owned social media platforms
The findings indicated that whilst Google do manage their own social media presence they do not adopt the symmetrical communication model (other than their Facebook Page). Comments should be opened up on the Official Google blog and a consumer service should be provided on their Twitter feed to further strengthen their brand reputation as a product and service provider.
2. Run a yearly Google event which focuses on advertisers
The annual and growing success of the Google I/O conferences is an indication that further conferences should be arranged to target other stakeholders, other than developers. Advertising is still Google’s main source of income and whilst the company does make regular appearances at expositions such as AdSpace and PPC Summit it does not run their own branded advertising event. Holding their own branded conference would reinforce the values of Google advertising to keep their dominance within the marketplace.
3. Define a clear brand strategy aligned to each Google product
Google is no longer only a search brand, its reputation relies upon many different Google products which operate separately from each other. Each product must have their own brand strategy which will clearly define the objectives of each product and the tactics, thus leading to long term direction and scope. It is clear that one of Google’s challenges within the marketplace is communicating with each one of their stakeholders. Breaking brand strategy down by product will allow Google to only focus upon relevant stakeholders and in turn increase awareness; an awareness which may have saved past Google products such as Google Buzz and Google Wave.
Originally this blog post existed as a short business report which was graded as 1:1 at University. Now that it has been graded it has been posted here. I hope that you think the grade was warranted or was deservedly quipped by the lecturer.