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Google Seeks to Hire "Head of Social"

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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 Responses to “Google Seeks to Hire "Head of Social"”

  1. Google have started open-social to be a good initiative.

    The whole point was to create a standard to build on top of the Social Networks. It looked good as a concept and now it sucks as an implementation.

    They seriously need to think a lot from consistency, integrity and ease of use perspective. We’re building on Facebook just after realizing that open-social is a good concept and bad implementation – now they’ve many inconsistent versions of Open Social and they work fine on some networks…e.g. Orkut has it’s own platform which is not quite alike the general open-social standard. The standard needs to be STANDARD.

    If you compare the open-social with Facebook Platform. FB is much more well though and greatly implemented platform. Google needs to give serious thought on Open-Social on – ease(from developer’s standpoint), consistency across social networks (FB doesn’t need this), strong support for XAuth + Making it seamless, Social Network Integration layer(acting like new FB Gadgets).

    Wake up guys..people need consistent, uniform and well-thought framework to build on. open-social is not that kind.

  2. google doesn’t need to create the next facebook or take over twitter — the very worse thing would to be to take over a site. do you know how damn difficult it is to sign into youtube or flick now because of google and yahoo …. idiots.

    google needs to sit down and calm the hell down. picture we’re in 1990, 2000 and then again in 2010. how did we improve communication? and how didn’t we improve communication?

    people forget that social is only around because we want to communicate. we don’t want to share. people hate it when other people share. this is why twitter went from “what you’re doing” to “what are you working on, what are your interests, how can i relate to you, how can i work and help you so you can help me.”

    people are tired of these social sites changing things. not caring what the people have to say about it. we’re addicted to communication and we have companies like facebook who say “we’re going to do whatever the hell we want because we have 4.5 million people and we can.” wrong. you can’t if you ever want a future.

    why the hell do these companies many everything so difficult? here’s the formula dip$hits be cool in a mainstream but under the radar kinda way, be smart and driven, be helpful and focused on the needs and wants of your users …. converse + google + apple = what the hell you’re looking for.

    screw innovation and strategy. screw all that crap. sit down with 500 people 13-18, 500 people 19-30 and 500 people 31-70. ask them to write down what they love, what they hate, how they’re limited, why they use it, etc etc for every social platform you can think of. from those answers and really if you sit down with 20 people from each of those categories — the answer will surely reveal itself. the only problem is naming the damn site and removing which ever consonant is closest to the end. i can’t help you with that at all.

    anyway sorry for blabbing on – still hung over. i’m sure this isn’t organized or makes any sense at all. basically, google please don’t make anything until you’re 100% sure it’s going to be worth it. i feel bad when such an awesome company disappoints.

    ps. thanks for finally releasing the wave …. now that all the talk is died down and everyone already had an invite from someone else anyway … weirdos.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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…

  7. 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.

  8. “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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

    • 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.

      • @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.

  11. I think Google needs to ask if they’re hiring a Head of Social to start a new network or to fit in the preexisting social space. Google needs both right now, and Ann’s comment speaks to them desperately needing help with the second. Facebook, Twitter, Google – the bigger the site gets, the harder it is for them to hear the complaints, frustrations and feedback of their customers.

    Google, you need a Head of Social Administration and a Head of Social Innovation. And a team to get you to the point where your customers need you to be.

  12. Dear Google,

    Did you know the search function on Blogger is seriously broken and has been for almost a year?

    Your staff has not heard these complaints.

    You need someone in charge of social to see when users write you messages like these about your broken search:

    “I think one of the things that Google are overlooking is the emotional impact this has upon their users and those that placed their trust in them. If only they would communicate frequently we could be a bit more understanding. But right now we cannot help but feel abandoned and treated with contempt.
    Google need to understand the amount of work that some people have put into their blogs. Some are a virtual labor of love. I acknowledge that blogspot is a free service but we were encouraged to use it by Google and were reassured all will be well. To be treated like this by those we have put trust in as the custodians of these blogs is very disheartening. It does not reflect well on Google and I am quite at a loss as to how they can be so indifferent to the situation.”

    Here are the relevant threads if you want the background: )

    I would be happy to give you any more information you require.

    And if you can get Blogger fixed like you did Usenet, the champagne’s on the way.

    has huge social problems.

    Here’s one.

    Its blogger search doesn’t work.

    Yes, that’s right. Blogger search doesn’t work even though Blogger is owned by Google.

    This has been going on for one year.

    And Blogger ignores the problem.

    No wonder Google has social problems.

    It doesn’t know how to listen.

  13. A friend of mine looked at this story and and she said “I like how their photo is of a guy in a tie. That might actually be part of their problem.” It’ll be interesting to see who they bring in to complement Joseph, Chris, Bradley, and David …

  14. I’ll take the job, give me two big cheques (yes I’m Canadian) one I’ll write to facebook and one I’ll write to twitter. All other apps will be built for us…

    I will need a massive salary Google…thanks!

  15. Christer Rosenvik

    The tremendous developement of ICT during the last two/three decades has swept people off their feet.
    Every one that have seen the tech dev. during the last ‘infomatic’ transformation period, the quantum leap of tecchnology and the obviously accelerating gap between citizens groups capabilites of utilizing the benefits of modern communications technologies, are the ones left behind. All the others are just ignoring the problems (by different reasons) When the tech savvy, eager youth´s at Google (and other companies) realizes there is a vast majority of citizens that are left behind,the tech train, a.k.a. ‘The digital divide’, they might, hopefully, try to alter the pace a little bit.

    Btw. I quit soldering when the bus width went from eight to sexteen bits…

    Christer Rosenvik
    Chairman, Jakobsbergs Gård, Bredäng/Sweden

    • I’m very honored, but I can’t bring Google back here. Why? Because Google’s infrastructure is holding it back and Google has lost many of their best engineers, both to startups and Facebook and those folks who’ve left say many who are left want to leave to join Facebook too. Sounds familiar, because Google did just that to Microsoft while I was there.

      If I were Google I’d gang up a team of their best engineers and split them off from the main company. Give them money to build a new infrastructure and keep them separate from Google’s strategy taxes (did you know that Googler’s are kept from using Facebook connect? That hamstrings Google’s own approach here).

      • Do you think that Google need to create one more Facebook? What for? People will not switch from Facebook to Google Social.
        Google need to improve their current services, make them more sociable – it’s the only way the can improve their “socialization” i think :)

  16. I think that it is going to be really hard for Google to come back on the pure social front – facebook has not left much oxygen there. My recommendation to Google would be to focus on “profiles” instead. Acquire wordpress and try to offer the best offering on the net for people to build their profile/identity, with a lot more reach ness and flexibility than facebook does. Integrate that well with search, facebook and twitter and once they have the profile foundation in place, look at creative ways for people to stay up to date with the profile of their friends – which will still be hard but may be addressable is they have the profile information.

  17. Google and Yahoo need to partner on this. Once they’re sharing profiles using some open standards (open social?) everybody will want to get on board. For now they’re both just pushing watered down, lonely versions of Facebook.

    If the standards are too open it’ll make it easy for competition but they don’t have much to worry about until email accounts are as mobile as your cell number.

  18. I think Google needs to go distributed for social. They started off Google Friends Connect but never really done much there to make it a compelling product. Imagine if Friends Connect was like Adsense, allowing millions of websites to create their own social networks that matched Facebook in features but built on Google’s infrastructure. All a site owner had to do was paste in some code from Google and they had a full blown community site. All Google had to do was focus on the technology and let others build the community. In no time Google could have a social network that was much bigger that Facebook. They would also have access to all that data form all these distributed communities. I fear if Google don’t do this, Facebook will and it would be game over for Google in the social space. Communities are more naturally built around interest/content and the company that enable the easy creation of communities on blogs and small sites which are usually very narrow in focus will create a massive distributed network. Think of all the data that can be gathered on people’s actual interest. This is where Google needs to focus. They are a technology company, so build great technology so other can help them with social. They have all the parts.

  19. Delinda Dyrssen

    Glad to see Google is working on this. One of the areas where Microsoft has also failed. Go Google! I don’t care if you guys “take over the world” hey I personally I think the Chrome browser is the best Ive ever used.. same goes for the search engine. Yes Google has lots of shortcomings and sometimes they do stuff I don’t like. But overall.. Ill put up with the cons because they are far outweighed by the PRO’s.