Google's Page Can't Buy Social Love
Sometime you read things that are just, well, head scratchers.
Take for example, Nicholas Carlson's scoop in Business Insider that Google CEO Larry Page sent out a memo April 1 to tell employees that 25 percent of their annual bonus will be tied to the success or failure of Google's social strategy in 2011.
Page allegedly wrote in the memo, titled "2011 Bonus Multiplier," that the company multiplier will be somewhere between .75 and 1.25, depending on how well Google does in social. Employees' bonuses could shrink by 25 percent if Google doesn't perform.
No pressure, right? This is the sort of stuff that confirms chatter that Page and the rest of Google's senior management view computer science problems as something that can be solved with math. In this case, generous dollar amounts for success.
Social, as we now know, doesn't work that way. Google can't grow in social any more than Bing and some of the other search engines can grow in search.
I had this conversation with Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang last week. The gist is that most Internet companies that build out massive platforms become, for better or worse, the brand for that particular product.
For Google's that's search after Yahoo, Microsoft and others misstepped. For Facebook, that's social after Friendster, MySpace and others failed.
"Google solved the question of how to find info," Owyang noted. "Facebook solved the question of how we navigate the world. It's a different question."
And a different problem for Google, which with +1 and Social Search has been trying to bolt social onto search after failing to bake it in from the beginning.
+1 is Google's rendition of the Facebook Like button, and while it may help consumers recommend content, there's no big social graph yet for users to enjoy because most people have failed to use Google Profiles or even Google accounts, both requirements to enjoy +1. Until I see results, it's a -1 in my view.
Platforms like Google's search and Facebook's social graph launch and grow and become a brand like anything else.
People go to Google for search and Facebook for social just as they go to Apple for iPods, iPhones and iPads. Just as people go to Coke or Pepsi instead of lesser known brands.