Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

Summary: The forthcoming attempt by Google to make a name for itself in social is a recipe for disaster because it will be forced, rushed and compared to others.

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News flash for Google: You can't force people to be social - and you certainly can't rush them.

But the company, under the leadership of a new CEO just jonesing to make his mark as the top dog, has launched an employee incentive/punishment plan that ties the 2011 employee bonuses to the company's success with social efforts.

Call it CEO Blunder No. 1.

First of all, you can't force people to be social. But Googlers, certainly worried about what their total compensation will look like by the end of the year, are now going to focus on quickly rolling out anything social - even if it's the lamest thing ever - to the masses. The problem is that Google's perception of what's a social winner and what's a social loser has left a lot to be desired. Wave, for example, proved to be way too complex for users to grasp it while Buzz was riddled with privacy issues from the start. Something that's thrown together and then shoved down the user's throat will surely be a recipe for disaster.

Second, you can't rush something like this. When you look at the success that Facebook and Twitter have reached, you have to think about how long those two companies have been at this. Facebook was a MySpace competitor for the longest time and Twitter still prompts some of those "I don't get it" reactions. Can Google execs really expect to rollout a social something and expect it to be an immediate success - all before 2011 bonuses are to be distributed. Again, we're talking about a trainwreck in the works.

Finally, you can't pin an entire strategy on beating the other guy. If your goal - and measurement of success - is based on your comparison to something that someone else already does well, you're setting yourself up for failure. Instead, Google should get busy behind the scenes to think like a startup, crafting something that's perhaps disruptive to an existing service but offers something above and beyond. Think about the weaknesses of the competition, such as Facebook's shortcomings when it comes to privacy, and make that a key differentiator.

When I think about Google trying to make a name for itself in social, I can't help but think of how Google launched GMail. There were already online email products on the market when GMail hit the scene - but it was different because it addressed key problems that the others had. First, it marketed an inbox without limits (even though it actually just had a very high ceiling) so that users wouldn't have to worry about deleting emails to make room for more. Then, it offered a new view to the email, organizing emails into conversations, offering labels over folders and pushing search over sorting features.

Sure, there are those who still aren't fans of the GMail way. But there are also plenty of others who would never go back to the old way, myself included. Some might argue that GMail is a successful product today - even though it's come a long way since its initial launch.

In part, that's because it wasn't forced, it wasn't rushed and it certainly wasn't trying to do what others were already doing - and it was a product that would grow into something successful over the long-term, not overnight.

The push into social should be treated the same way - and tying it to annual bonuses is not the smartest start.

Topics: CXO, Google, Social Enterprise

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22 comments
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  • find weakness in their strength

    Facebook and Twitter, have own weak spots due to their size and "anybody can friend/follow anybody" policy. I am sure we will see strong competitors emerge. Be positive!
    romanovskis
  • RE: Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

    Google...Don't be Evil
    g@...
  • FUD

    FUD
    tatiGmail
    • RE: Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

      @tatiGmail

      Are you kidding? How is this anything of the sort?
      ThomasB2k
  • Employee are entitled to easy bonuses?

    Once I got past the inflammatory verbiage, the thing that struck me is that the author somehow thinks that bonus pay is an entitlement, not an incentive. Otherwise, the article would have been called "CEO rewards Google employees who help company succeed in social networking" and would have been seen as a positive move.
    terry flores
  • Why do we promote this myth that "Wave was too complex"

    People rejected Wave because there was nothing particularly useful or original in its concept of organizing knowledge. There are much better solutions to capture group intelligence than Wave.
    Your Non Advocate
    • RE: Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

      @facebook@... So was GMail, why did it succeed
      krishnansriram
    • RE: Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

      @facebook@...

      The problem with Wave as I saw it was that it launched as a seperate product. If they'd integrated the functionality into GMail it would have done a lot better. Only problem would be starting a Wave and including people who's email isn't running on GMail, but I'm sure there's ways around that even if functionality needs to be stripped out.
      OffsideInVancouver
  • RE: Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

    One thing that was missing from the memo, or I should say the various summaries on the internet is what would Google consider a success in social.

    For instant
    It could be just switching all of there services over to Google Profile and adding +1 to all there services.
    If it the above then the chances of it it succeeding and Google staff get there bonus is high.

    However if it link to Google rolling out a completely new social network, with the target of say 300 million users then it will be a flop and Googlers will receive 25% less bonus this year.

    I suspect from everything we have heard so far that it will be the first option. An the bonus is design to get everyone working on implementing social features in to there products.
    Knowles2
  • RE: Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

    'Forcing' is not all about Google corporate internals. Forcing external users to change login data to a login or e-mail that google was aware of, such as recently done with YouTube, where a Google login was suddenly required in lieu of the existing Youtube account, also had negative consequences. For a few months, users were encouraged to login with a Google or "google-known" e-mail address possibly picked from the user's PC. One day, the same people were without warning given a choice to use a Google login or give up their authoring access to YouTube. Not a huge percentage but 'many' smallish YouTube contributors just closed their YT accounts because they did not want yet another e-mail address to deal with, or did not want to connect the two services due to privacy and data collection concerns, or for who knows what reason, maybe because they didn't like being forced to do that. That is why some few bits of content is no longer available.

    I wonder if this action on the part of Google is connected to the ideas or philosophy behind the present topic? It's a bit weird anyway.
    opcom
    • Don't need an email

      I'm not sure why people would see it as a problem to have a Google account. You don't actually need to have a gmail address to get one; you can use an existing email (just like I can use my gmail address to open a Microsoft Live account). Besides, you're not creating "yet another login", you're replacing an existing account with a different one which also gives you the advantage of (probably) encompassing other logins you use. So in the end, you reduce the number of logins you have and not the contrary.

      I really don't see what the big deal is with these people.
      eslachance
      • RE: Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

        @eslachance

        Yes, it is yet another login account. I have one gmail account for Facebook, one for YouTube that replaced my YouTube account, and a non-gmail account for my actual personal email. Why? Privacy. There is no way I want all those linked together under the same account.
        aep528
    • RE: Google's recipe for a bad social strategy: Force it, rush it, compare it to others

      @opcom Maybe that is bad for some people,but for the ones of us that use Gmail,connecting through a Google account is a great idea,even better that doing it with Facebook.For example,it allows you to use your Google Knickname,instead of the real one,something that I have no clue how to do with Facebook.And with my Youtube account,I linked both accounts,so I can sign in with my Google account,but that doesn't forbides you to log with the Youtube knick and password.I think that is just the way Google should go:connecting differents services and making people save time,instead of losing times with innecessary hypes about new services.That's why Facebook doesn't want to let Google connect with it,because if it did so,Google would became the standard way to create a new profile in a new web of service.And finally,Google could introduce,slowly,new social ideas,that,eventually,would take Facebook place.
      anto31
  • Is Buzz still active?

    I gave up on Buzz pretty quickly: when I realised it was just a Twitter reserved for those of your friends who have Gmail. Hunting through my Gmail account, I can't find any reference to it any more. Will Google come up with anything better?
    Patrick Neylan
  • Google has always copied other people's ideas

    but Google was (and never will be) smart enough to understand them. That's why things look rushed at Google. This is also why Andriod will always be inferior to Apple's innovative devices.
    iPad-awan
  • Google to become a Microsoft

    A company that grows to the size Google is today is doomed to become a Microsoft with all the drawbacks of being a multibillion dollar organization. The original passion of being a startup is all gone. The next wave of social stuff will come from some company or nerd we probably never heard about and by then Facebook will be another heavyweight unable to move fast for something new, the same way as Google and Microsoft.
    mabho
  • Really....

    First you say, "Finally, you can?t pin an entire strategy on beating the other guy."

    Then you say, "I can?t help but think of how Google launched GMail. There were already online email products on the market when GMail hit the scene - but it was different because it addressed key problems that the others had."

    The tile of the article is good, but the content is riddled with inconsistencies, and incomplete outlook. "Forcing crappy/incomplete articles down user's throats just to get something out" seems like a more appropriate title. But hey, at least you're giving us an example of what you want Google to avoid. Props to you o brave journalist!
    relativityboy
  • Product managers as used car salesmen.

    Sounds like Google is trying to turn product managers into used car salesman.

    This is unfortunate. Google's engineering is great, but their products are already a bit of an incoherent mess. They need coherent, careful product strategies, but they seem to be going in the opposite direction.

    Google has shown us that a company doesn't have to be evil, but Apple has shown what can be achieved through careful, top-down management. If Google would learn a little from Apple then maybe we could have the best of both?
    Trufagus
  • Pressure on the staff is not necessarily pressure on users ...

    It's trite to assume that putting pressure on the satff has to result in a bad product. Google engineers can - and should - produce some great work in time for bonus planning, but that does not require instant rollout.

    Having said that, I do agree that gmail launch was fantastic marketing - invite only, and beta for years - so Google is capable of doing better than wave, buzz, or Orkut - at least in marketing terms.

    Of course there's a risk that they'll panic and rush - but now that they recognise the vital importance of matching FB and Tw, they'll likely have the sense to realise it's too important to get it wrong. We'll see.
    Heenan73
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