10 Questions for Google’s “Head of Social”

GigaOm reports that Google is looking to recruit a “Head of Social”. I welcome the move and present a few questions Google should be asking of its new hire:

  1. In 2008 and 2009, we let people believe that iGoogle was our social platform. In 2010, we placed all our bets on Buzz. Is there any way we can integrate iGoogle and Buzz?
  2. What should be Google’s ONE social homepage? iGoogle? Buzz? Profile Page?
  3. What do we do with Google Friend Connect? We need an answer.
  4. How do we leverage Google Social Graph API?
  5. We added social sharing features as an afterthought to Google Reader. Later we invented Buzz. Now, Buzz largely consists of Google Reader shares, where you can easily comment and like them. Except that you can’t share from Buzz to other networks, like you can do in Reader.
    We need clarity on how to move forward with these products so that there’s no overlap and distinct product roadmaps.
  6. We realize that Facebook wouldn’t have grown to its present gigantic size without frivolous but sticky apps like quizzes and games. Stuff like this can be added as gadgets on iGoogle, but not on Buzz.
    We need to consider where and how we can provide sticky apps that attract mainstream users.
  7. How do we let developers monetize their apps for our social platform?
  8. We have a millions of people using Orkut in Brazil and India. How do we consolidate these into the Buzz umbrella?
  9. What incentive do we provide web publishers to use our social platform? Can we leverage our core search results page to highlight results from our social platform?
  10. Facebook is a one-stop-shop for discussions (Buzz), photos (Picasa), videos (YouTube), friend network (Profiles/Orkut), and sharing (Reader). We are all over the place, with a different set of active users of each product. How do we consolidate all of them?

These questions may sound tough and embarrassing. I hope they’re not avoided, because Google is in a tough and embarrassing position. A blind-folded approach isn’t going to help. And we desperately need Google to challenge Facebook.

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  • IMHO you are dead on. From an engineering point of view, it is great to diversify and have different projects that can innovate without bothering about the bigger picture. “That's cool, let's do it” mentality is great to drive new features, experiment and innovate.

    But in the end of the day, Google has to find a way to combine the powers into one visible front end (aka 'product'), if they really want to make enhanced social networking their goal (no matter how things work in the background).

    In a way, they have to destroy what they created and are famous for? Google = Search was yesterdays message?

  • Alex, thanks for the feedback.

    Google's present situation is a result of inorganic growth through acquisitions and prior failed attempts at social. It is a difficult situation, but if anyone has the resources, inventiveness, and influence to challenge Facebook, it is Google.

  • Great post! In my opinion, there should be a number '0' on top of the list:

    “We have this application called 'contacts' in Gmail, yeah I know, most people didn't really know this. Here you can find all the people you have contacted and socialized with, great isn't it, but what do you think we should do with it in order to make it the engine behind all the stuff you're going to think of in the next few years?”

  • Yeah, that's a tricky one. They tried to make use of email contacts from Gmail as friends in Buzz, but that led to a privacy backlash. Defining a role for email contacts in social is another tough question!

    Thanks, Melle!

  • Short and precisely on point. Curious to how Google will integrate your question's into it's interview process.

    PS. I hope they offer you the job even if you're not interested.

    You get social.

  • Thanks, Mark!

    I'm sure Google must be aware of all these challenges.

    P.S. You are too kind. 🙂

  • Anup Jadhav

    ahem….what about “Wave”…Google has not openly talked about how they are going to integrate Wave into their social graph.

  • Anup,

    I'm not even sure Wave is under the gambit of Social at present. I suspect it's more a collaboration tool like Google Docs that can eventually be a part of Google Apps for Enterprise.

  • Incredible post. These 10 questions should get the to be hired 'head of social' either cracking or packing.

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