What can businesses learn from Google’s rejuvenation of its social media strategy?

It may be one of the world’s biggest brands, but Google doesn’t have the greatest track record with social media. In 2010, it attempted to launch the long-forgotten Google Buzz, but privacy concerns forced the closure in December 2011.

Google+ replaced Buzz in December 2011, and has been a long-standing laughing stock. We particularly enjoyed I Choose Birmingham’s ‘Find us on Google+. Just kidding. Nobody’s on Google+’ remark. Despite this, Google reported 418 million active users in December 2015. Whilst this may seem impressive, compare these figures to Facebook who reported 934 million active users in December 2015. Google still have a long way to go, which is why they have hired Christopher Poole, founder of 4chan, to rejuvenate its social media strategy.

anonymous social media

Christopher Poole announced his appointment on Tumblr.

Who is Christopher Poole?

Christopher Poole (aka moot) started 4chan in his bedroom at age 15. In the 12 years since, he built it into a 20 million active user image-sharing community around a variety of topics. 4chan is famous for spawning memes such as Rick-rolling on YouTube and being the birthplace of hacktivist group, Anonymous.

Poole was forced to step down after the 2014 controversy surrounding hackers leaking naked pictures of high profile women, including actress Jennifer Lawrence, onto 4chan.

What can Poole do for Google?

4chan’s success came from its combination of anonymity and community. It worked as a source of shared creativity at the best of times. Poole will be working with Bradley Horowitz, a Google engineer who leads streams, photos and sharing, the individual products that were spun out of Google+. Google have stated they will be taking advantage of Poole’s experience ‘building online communities’.

It’s also a chance for Google to embrace the anonymity 4chan users value so highly. In 2011, Poole commented on how Google+ had failed to give users a real alternative to Facebook, in part by refusing to embrace anonymity.

“I think most people view anonymity as a natural opposite to something like a Facebook identity. With Plus I think Google really missed this opportunity to really innovate in a way that Facebook hasn’t, and to support this idea that you are many people…We are all different people based on the context where we are faced. We are different people in front of different audiences. Google could have used that opportunity to support this fluid identity.”

This strongly hints towards Poole’s plans for Google’s social media strategy, pitting the search giant as a true alternative to Facebook.

The Pros and Cons of Anonymous Social Media

Social apps that embrace anonymity such as Whispr and Yik Yak (although Yik Yak now has the option to add a username) have become popular, particularly amongst a younger audience, over recent years.

The Pros of Anonymous Social Media

  • Offers a way to help people in need. As users are not identified, troubled individuals can find help from a non-judgmental source.
  • Becomes a source for breaking news.
  • Acts as a source for unbiased advice.

The Cons of Anonymous Social Media

  • Potentially damaging to people’s lives. The mass leak of celebrity’s private photos on 4chan is an example of this.
  • More potential for cyber-bullying and abusive posts.

Can brands get on board with anonymous social media?

The advice coming from top marketers is to tread very carefully. Anonymous social media could be beneficial for understanding human behaviours in a place where people can anonymously speak openly and freely. These insights can feed back into marketing strategies.

However, brands must be careful not to jump on the bandwagon for the sake of it. Apps such as Yik Yak have relatively tiny audiences compared to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, so more time should be dedicated to improving strategy on these networks before delving into the unknown. Find out more about the debate surrounding anonymous social media from advertising professionals here.

Would you consider using anonymous social media to reach your target audience? Get in touch with us to talk social media management.

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