Facebook has taken a lot of flak for its approach to socially driven ads, but the situation could improve significantly in 2008.
The social network has poached Sheryl Sandberg, Google’s vice president of global online sales and operations, to run its sales, marketing, business development, HR, public policy, privacy and communications.
No pressure there, but Sandberg appears to be managing everything but the Facebook platform. It’s possible that if the lights go out in the Palo Alto headquarters, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will send Sandberg to check the circuit breaker.
The coup sent Wall Street into a tizzy, dragging down Google’s stock $12.42 from the previous close and causing financial analysts to proclaim that this is a crushing blow to Google’s online ad forces.
Sandberg wasn’t just a rank-and-file executive. During her six years with the search giant, Sandberg built and managed Google’s online sales channels for both AdWords and AdSense and managed global operations for Google’s consumer products.
The real deal is that she helped make Google the online ad blue whale it is now, gobbling up paid clicks like plankton in the deep sea of paid search.
This is the sort of management help industry experts said Zuckerberg would need if Facebook were to augment its growth in the socially generated ad space.
But even better, Sandberg comes from the goliath in the online ad space, a company so far ahead in paid search in advertising that it still surpasses Microhoo, the second and third players in the market combined.
Sandberg oozed confidence in a press statement: “Together, with Mark and the great team at Facebook, we’ll be able to scale this company into a global leader and enable Facebook users worldwide to communicate and share information better.”
I’ve no reason to believe she can’t accomplish what she pledges to do. But Google executives, and Sandberg herself, will tell you a lot of balls have to bounce your way to become as successful as Google. It is the only company of the Internet era to enjoy such success.
With Sandberg, Facebook and industry watchers have reason to be optimistic about the company’s future. Its success arc is similar to Google’s at this stage.
If Sandberg helps Facebook figure out how to find the right partners to sell and place ads, and then Facebook gets the programmers writing Facebook applications to monetize that software for a cut of the action, the uber startup has a shot at catching lightning in a bottle the way Google did.
But again, an awful lot has to go right for Facebook to get there; getting Sandberg is a great step in the right direction.