2011-04-17

Google’s difficulty with social networking

Social networking is an essential next step for Google’s two core businesses: advertising and search. For advertising, because it is becoming an important marketing instrument. For search, because people use it to share and rate information (including links). Thus, it is no surprise that Google is trying hard to catch up with Facebook regarding social networking. The article “Larry Page’s first blunder” argues that Google is currently taking the wrong approach and offers suggestions for improvement.
Google’s latest activity in this area has been to let bonuses depend on the performance of its social networking products. Quote:
[CEO Larry Page] sent a company-wide memo tying 25% of every employee’s bonus to Google’s success in social. As one commenter put it, Page tied all Google bonuses to “Facebook envy.”

Only a small fraction of Google’s employees are involved in social services. So why is Page incentivizing everybody?

Page wants employees to advocate Google’s social networking features to family and friends. “When we release products, try them and encourage your family and friends to do the same,” he wrote in the memo. Allegedly.

Call it the “Spam Grandma for Cash” program.
The article argues that social networking only works as an integrated experience; you cannot take the parts and put them everywhere (example: integrating Buzz with Mail). Instead, users want a site where they can go to socialize. The two main suggestions for improvement are:
1. Build a dedicated site where it all comes together like Facebook. The dedicated site would not be instead of social features everywhere, but in addition to them. Imagine Facebook, but where your existing Talk account is the “Chat” feature. Your Gmail account is the “Messaging” feature. Latitude is “Places.” Buzz is your “Wall.” Profiles is your “Profile.” And so on.

[...]

3. Hammer away at Facebook’s vulnerabilities, which are privacy, transparency and spam. If Google’s social network was extremely good at letting you know and control what you’re sharing and what you’re not sharing, new users would come flooding in. And don’t let anyone spam your Wall with invitations, promotions and other junk.

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