Google Seeks to Hire "Head of Social"

82 Comments

Google (s GOOG) says it’s willing to accept its shortcomings on the social web and bring in a “Head of Social” to set it on the right course. The company has hired an executive recruiter to fill the position, and is currently in the process of casting its net as widely as possible.

Though competition from Google sends shivers down spines in just about every sector — from news and book publishers to phone makers to venture capital — the company’s dominance has a gaping hole on the social web. Google has tried to introduce social sites, from Orkut to Buzz, but they’ve had limited appeal, hampered by a misunderstanding of user needs. In recent months Google has added a social layer onto its existing products, like search and maps. And it does have powerhouse publishing and communication properties in Blogger and Gmail on the outskirts of the social web. But there’s no formidable master plan to speak of.

Until now, however, it wasn’t clear to what extent the algorithmically driven Google understood that it had a social problem. At the Google Buzz launch, Sergey Brin lamely talked up the success of Orkut, a rare emission of marketing speak from the normally blunt Google co-founder. Brin and other Google presenters seemed to have been groomed not to mention the “F-word” — aka “Facebook,” the leading social site on the web. And we all know how well Buzz was received.

More recently, Google staffed up on advocates of open social web standards such as Joseph Smarr and Chris Messina and tried to put together industry-unified alternatives to Facebook. And in a highly unusual move, the company altered its core asset, front-page search results, with real-time updates from Twitter through a paid deal late last year.

But now Google has retained an international executive search firm to recruit a “Head of Social.” Here’s how the job is described, according to a recruiting letter we obtained:

This is a new and very strategic position, as Google knows it is late on this front and is appropriately humble about it. In Google’s view, conceptually, there are two ways to tackle social, each impacting who may be successful in this senior post: 1) building an innovative offering specifically in this area; or 2) developing the capability and integrating social into Google’s existing portfolio.

There’s also the possibility of acquiring an existing social site — which is what someone qualified for this job would likely be busy running — but that’s not overtly stated. As for internal candidates, Google’s most prominent spokespeople on social have been folks such as Smarr, engineering director David Glazer, and VP of product management for apps, Bradley Horowitz. It’s not clear if they’re being considered as well.

Is there a silver bullet for Google in social? Probably not. But if you think you could be it, the company may be looking for you.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Why Google Should Fear the Social Web

Social Advertising Models Go Back to the Future (This piece details how web monetization will change as social replaces search for an increasing number of functions.)

82 Comments

Anna OBrien

My thoughts: It’s not about a head of social, but more about a team. Senior level executives are awesome at selling through strategies and navigating corporate red tape, however they struggle to be innovative. They’re too far from the source. Find someone who’s a great leader, who’s charismatic , and has sound judgment. Pair them with someone who has crazy ideas and pushes limits. That equation could equal a social win for Google or any company for that matter.

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[…] And it’s increasingly apparent that Google is now taking games seriously. The company is looking for a games product manager, just hired a developer advocate, and bought the game maker LabPixies. There’s probably also a connection to gaming in its attempts to hire a head of its social product. […]

Omar

Even if Google acquired a social media site it wouldn’t work because it isn’t the service; it’s the misuse and strategy behind using the service as the article said.

I personally really dislike google’s approach. Sure, they know how to create function.

However, they dish out service after service without careful consideration about the relevance.

Why not have one or two VERY relevant products like Apple as opposed to 1200 products that are just floating around.

Even the search engine has been destroyed. Google no longer knows how to bring up relevant results.

They truly need to get back on track.

Christopher Smith

I am in. Would love to hear from that recruiting firm. I have heard of Google. They build things, right?

As I am currently working in the social good / SoMe space, I only see positive opportunity for Google to help and innovate in this area. I am getting a little bored of the rinse and repeat that so many SoMe companies are currently doing. Its a clear sign to me that Google is feeling the same way, especially after failing a few times with their SoMe direction.

Google Looks To Hire “Social” Chief | gabriel catalano | in-perfección

[…] Liz Gannes obtained a recruiting letter describing this position, and Google was at least realistic in terms of expectations.  Part of the letter acknowledged, “This is a new and very strategic position, as Google knows it is late on this front and is appropriately humble about it.”That’s a smart admission on the company’s part, since few intelligent people would want to feel they were facing an impossible task. […]

Google finally seeks out social media director | Stephen Bolen

[…] GigaOM acquired a recruiting letter from Google: This is a new and very strategic position, as Google knows it is late on this front and is appropriately humble about it. In Google’s view, conceptually, there are two ways to tackle social, each impacting who may be successful in this senior post: 1) building an innovating offering specifically in this area; or 2) developing the capability and integrating social into Google’s existing portfolio. […]

traintalk

Google hiring an exacutive recruiter is only the beginning. The next step will be hiring consultants to figure out how to keep up with and manage the new social “head”. Sounds to me like they don’t have a clue…

Adam Mutum

They don’t have to get anyone. They have everything in place and all they need is a tem to put all of the resources together. Just read what some bloggers have been saying on blogs on Blogger and they have the answers and strategies.

MyLocator ®

“very strategic position…….building a innovative offering”
-A Strategic Position social offering will require a personalized, natural language, location based domain name.
(myspace-good; facebook-fair; bebo-bad)
-This domain name must have the capacity to become the master destination channel for everything we do online and mobile for business and pleasure. Mobile navigation UI’s will change the face of desktop navigation as we know it.
-The future of social is not rocket science. Its all about being the best “Social Artist”, having a little something special for everyone. Final generation social will be about who has the best lyrics (channels/domains) that users would naturally gravitate to and embed into their social graph.

Google Looks To Hire "Social" Chief | Rodney Payne

[…] Liz Gannes obtained a recruiting letter describing this position, and Google was at least realistic in terms of expectations.  Part of the letter acknowledged, "This is a new and very strategic position, as Google knows it is late on this front and is appropriately humble about it." […]

Websitesdevel

Google has been realized that Facebook is his main competitor now (not Microsoft). I think is too late for Google to create analog of Facebook because people are used to share their social relationships and photos on Facebook. They don’t need one more Facebook. Google has just one social service which can be the competitor to Facebook – YouTube. I think they schould improve social features at YouTube! Good news for Google is that in search area Facebook have nothing and Diggable “Like” buttons will not help Facebook to create good search engine!

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[…] Possibly! Because while the major problem with Buzz is that it was a privacy sinkhole, Google’s overarching issue is that users simply don’t want it. Just like they didn’t want or understand Google Wave. And just like—other than in Brazil, because hey why not—they don’t want Orkut. Moreover, the social Google properties that people do respond to, Blogger and Gmail, aren’t really “social” in the way that Facebook and Twitter are. Fortunately, it looks like Google knows that the first step is admitting you have a problem, according to this recruiting letter acquired by GigaOM: […]

M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

Google should get the hell out of social. It’s time Google got smart and followed Jack Welch’s advice: “If you can’t be number one or number two in the market, get the hell out!”

They’re number one in search, a strong number two in smart phones, either number one or number two in maps, and yet they continue to piss away energy in things like Buzz, Wave, docs, fiber, browsers, …

I just got a Verizon Droid Incredible. I use Google Maps to find stuff, but I use Twitter for social. Sure, I have Buzz and Latitude, but do I use them? No!

Travell Perkins

They have to do something about social. At the end of the day they aggregate eyeballs and sell them. Just like the media companies they are helping to put out of business. Zucks money machine runs on ads and if that is where the eyeballs are 5 years from now Facebook will be the next Google. Also don’t forget that Facebook is working on and has powerful search infrastructure. If Google doesn’t help fragment the market Facebook will have enough leverage to fund an alternative to Google Search. Facebook is already printing money on the backside of what use to be Google invoices.

Susan Beebe

@Nikhil,

Thanks for the head’s up. Early on, I added a few twitter savvy News Media folks who where demonstrating they understood social media and were effectively leveraging multiple social channels, not just traditional media channels.

Nonetheless, this list is amongst the top lists worldwide for social media folks; quite a diverse list of social media savvy professionals in many different industries.

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