Plenty of hungry and scrappy startup companies will be represented at the ad:tech San Francisco conference next week, showing how innovation, moxie and a killer idea can make up for a beginner’s lack of name recognition when pitted against tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Google.
Turns out these very same strategies to make headway against Facebook, Microsoft and Google are also effective if you, in fact, are Facebook, Microsoft or Google. These technology firms may not be looking for startup funding but they are looking for ways to behave like a startup company when it comes to challenging the established powers for market share.
Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Google’s social networking service Google+ will both be represented at the ad:tech conference. Bing will be on hand as a registered participant and Google+ as a topic of discussion in the workshop “Google+: How Your Business Can Come to Life on the Web” and the keynote address “Advertising in the Social Sphere - Deciphering Ways to Create Connections, Engagement and Presence” featuring legendary venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki.
While Bing and Google+ were both launched by industry giants who need no introduction, both products have managed, well, less-than-overwhelming success. Google+ and Bing are both, at best, distant runners-up in their respective sectors. Last month, the Wall Street Journal called Google+ “a ghost town” compared to rival Facebook. Bing, meanwhile, has made strides in recent months – but their overall search market share is still not even one-fourth of Google’s according to last month’s comScore numbers.
Oh, and there has been trash talked. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg referred to Google+ as Google’s “own little version of Facebook.” Whereas Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt dinged Bing in 2009 with, “It’s not the first entry for Microsoft. They do this about once a year.”
Google+ and Bing are both undaunted by these unkind words and fair-to-middling early results. Google and Microsoft are utilizing two different strategies in hopes of realizing their giant-killer aspirations.
In Bing’s case, this means splashy promotions with big names. Earlier this month, Bing bought some choice placement on the Facebook interface screen with full-page ads on the Facebook logout page. Upon logging out, users saw Bing's signature landscape photo and active search box embedded -- ready to search and take users to their next web surfing time-killer of choice.
When you're a Fortune 500 tech titan, you might happen to own some widely popular applications on which to promote your upstart idea. Microsoft hs done just that, this week adding the Bing bar to the interface of their videoconferencing service Skype. Microsoft purchased Skype in October 2011.
Additional pop culture promotions seem to come out weekly. Bing just did a series of ads with hip hop star Wiz Khalifa and has a promotional tie-in with the advocacy efforts for the upcoming cause celebre documentary "Bully."
"Bing seems to have woken Google up a little bit," analyst Whit Ayres told IT World magazine. "Google is right to worry about competitive pressures from other search engines because there is no operational cost from switching from one search engine to another."
Google's approach to taking on Facebook with Google+ is more of a slow and steady strategy but one using the full complement of Google's many powerful platforms. Every self-respecting blogger, for instance, now feels compelled to have a Google+ account because of the new Google authorship widget. Not only do author's photos appear on Google search engine results pages, but also a count of their Google+ followers -- but only if the author has a Google+ account.
ZDNet also estimates that Google+ is a main benefactor of referral traffic from the hot new looker in the social media class, Pinterest.
Niether Google+ nor Bing immediately crippled their prohibitively well-positioned rivals at the outset. But both continue to employ creative marketing strategies, like Bing with the film "Bully." And both have the financial firepower to continue doing so until they're not being bullied around anymore.
This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out allvoices.com/adtech for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech San Francisco event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.