Who has the most valuable data: Facebook or Google?

Everybody knows that the two tech giants collect a ton of data about us (unless you are living in a cave with no internet and access to civilization).

What drives them to collect this information is profitability. People in the marketing and advertising industry are willing to pay a lot to know about their potential and actual customers and to engage with them.

So from that very same marketing and advertising perspective, I couldn’t help but wonder: “Who between the two giants has the most enticing and relevant information?”

In order to answer, let’s first understand the origin and nature of the two giants.


A very long story cut short, Facebook (TheFacebook at the time) was the result of two notable ideas:

-To develop a dating application exclusive for Harvard guys to date Harvard girls and

-Facemash- A website that scraped pictures of Harvard students and allowing its users to vote who was hotter. Basically, you were allowed to pass judgments on people and shame them without their consent. Needless to say, it brought the worst out of the users but still, it was very popular. Lots of people seemed to be willing to use it.

*Bits and pieces of that history can still be found on The Harvard Crimson, the daily student newspaper of Harvard University. Here are two articles from that time on the subject:
Facemash Creator Survives Ad Board
Online ‘facemash’ site, while mildly amusing, catered to the worst side of Harvard students

Fast forward to now, Facebook still drives upon its social aspect even though arguably more responsible than what it was in its earlier days. It survived and grew through more features and then through acquisition such as with WhatsApp and Instagram and a whole lot more.

Its business model can be summarised as below:

-Attract and retain users

-Collect information on users

-Convince businesses to invest in Ads on their platform by promising them reach and engagement

As of present, Facebook has a Market cap (Market Value) of over $531 billion according to Nasdaq, with its share price ranging around $183.

In 2016, Facebook generated $26.9 billion in Ad sales, more than 80% of it was generated via mobile ads.

Giant #2 GOOGLE

Google started as a Ph.D. thesis. Again a long story cut short, the Internet was in an infant stage, search engines were crappy and two brilliant young minds from Standford -while pursuing their Ph.D.- managed to create a better search engine. The invention was dubbed “BackRub” (I guess somebody badly needed a back rub) before eventually being named Google. Unlike Facebook, Google is more like a Kraken with tentacles in every direction. The owners themselves created another parent company called Alphabet to hold Google and its countless other entities including YouTube, Android, Nexus, Nestlab, DeepMind, X, Jigsaw, Verily, Waymo among several others.

As of present, Alphabet Inc has a Market cap (Market Value) of over $732 billion according to Nasdaq, with its share price ranging around $1,072.

In 2016,  Alphabet generated revenue of $90.07 billion out of which $89.46 billion came from Google (from Mobile search and YouTube mostly).

Yeah, it’s a no-brainer that the Ad world is hugely profitable for the two giants. So now that we have our facts straight let us assume we are the marketing/Advertising executive of a firm or a business owner, which one do we pick first?

Well, it depends on the objective and the situation. If it is an awareness campaign, where the aim is to disseminate information, to influence people’s perception, to get them to find something likable then social platforms like Facebook and Instagram is a good idea. These are social platforms where the voice of the most popular thrives, information can travel really fast.

But its main weakness also lies in the fact that it is a social platform. It is dictated by a false projection in most cases. People ( I included) project what they want to project, what they want you to see, what is acceptable rather than everything that they are. Often there will be a dissonance between who a person really is and his online persona. Since Facebook collects information that is limited to your online persona, what they know about you is also limited to that (especially if you log out and do not let it track your every move to other sites or your phone).

Unconvinced? okay, how about this. If your nose is bleeding, will you be more likely to google the information or sharing a status? If you have a liver infection, are you more likely to put a picture and a status of it or will you google it and remedies first? If you need to buy a new camera, do you search for it on Facebook or you google it and watch a few reviews on YouTube first? Not that Facebook might not know about it or guess it, Your likes and pages visits, status, GPS location might give some information away for it to guess but the point is, if you are actively looking for a cure, a product, you would more likely be googling it and google immediately knows of it. So when it is about selling a product or converting a prospect from warm to hot (“interested phase” to “ready to buy phase”), Adwords and YouTube is a very strong duo. When somebody is actively looking for a camera to buy, it is extremely important and time critical for your camera or your camera store to appear in front of him and this is something google search excels at.

Overall, Google wins it for me from a commercial perspective; While both collect a lot of information about us, Facebook knows more about our circles and social groups (online), about what we project however shallow or artificial that may be, it takes it at face value. Google, on the other hand, has more information on what you are browsing, what your interests are and what are you actively searching for.


Disagree? something I missed that you want to add? please leave a comment or inbox me.


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