Why Google Is Failling in Social Media


I have been puzzled about Google’s inability to do well in the social media space. I have watched them take over Blogger and instead of making it better and more relevant, they managed to lose market share. There were another string of failures like Dogeball, Jaiku, Lively, Buzz and Wave. Even Orkut, the largest social network in Brazil, is now losing the Brazilians to Facebook. I have seen several of my friends migrate from Orkut recently. It wasn’t until a recent article in FastCompany profiling Larry Page, Google’s CEO, that I got a clue into the search giant’s ineptitude at social media. As it turns out, Larry does not use social media. Now it all makes perfect sense.

Why Google is failing in social media

Organizational culture is driven from the top. It makes sense that what the leadership values, their passion and interests get researched, funded and developed. It’s interesting to me that such a large and entrepreneurial business as Google where workers are given free time to work on pet projects, still manages to fail in what has become the hottest and fastest growing sector of the internet. Interestingly the founders of Twitter and Foursquare are former Google employees. But it wasn’t until they left their jobs at the Googleplex that they were able to create their social software that has changed the way we communicate.

The implications here are many. But for me there are two critical ones. First, as a leader of my group, I will determine the culture and the emotional intelligence of my entire organization. Consciously or subconsciously I will hire, fund and develop people who share some of my value and interests. Secondly, those who are passionate about something other than what their organization’s DNA will be frustrated in their jobs until they find a place that aligns more closely with their passion.

As Google seems to be proving to us, not even free time to work on any project,  a massive budget, and brilliant people can create products outside the core interests of the organizational leaders. My assumption based on personal experience is that bottom up movement can only occur when there’s strong buy in from the top.

Have you ever been in a situation where you tried to convince your superior to try something new? How did it workout?

  • Tim and Karen

    Have you ever been in a situation where you tried to convince your superior to try something new? How did it workout?nnOur church did sermon-aligned small groups once-a-year. As the small groups Pastor I supported one unique series on Friendship. The Senior Pastor did not put 100% effort into the sermons, had to miss one Sunday and did not leave me (or anyone else) the assignemt of preaching the next sermon in the series, did not attend a group, gave personal permission to 2 groups made up primarily of church leaders to not follow the series, and did not advertise the groups or the series in the run-up. nnNeedless to say, it was a complete bust. Worse than that, it put a serious dent in my ability to lead that area of ministry or expand it as the church grew.

  • Very insightful. I’ve wondered this very thing, but that makes a lot of sense.

  • Maurilio – we see this regularly in our industry! Mid-level managers and marketers bring us in to “shed new light” on their branding and communications strategies, only to discover that they’ve been fighting an uphill battle with their own creative ideas not being taken seriously by their superiors. nnThe top reason why we see this happening (not that this is standard, just in our experience), is the leader’s inability to trust the employees to make decisions and progress in alignment with the company’s goals and vision – whether it’d be an ego issue or other.

    • If I can’t trust my team, then I have the wrong team. In my experience, insecure people will hire those who don’t pose a threat and that will obey orders without questioning. In any case, it’s disastrous.

  • Shari

    Thank you for this excellent post! I have been pondering this disappointing truth all afternoon.nWhile I have known that organizational culture is driven from the top, I didn’t think about how it killed creativity on the lower rungs of the ladder. nnSeveral years ago I had a boss with whom I worked, continually offering new ideas to improve processes, services, marketing, cut costs, increase revenue, etc. He would listen yet did nothing. After resigning as an employee, he hired me as a consultant and then began to actually implement the ideas we had discussed for years. I concluded that my higher hourly rate elevated his respect for my ideas.nnNow back in the corporate world as an employee instead of a consultant, you nailed it when you wrote, “those who are passionate about something other than what their organizationu2019s DNA will be frustrated in their jobs until they find a place that aligns more closely with their passion.”nnYou’ve given me much to think about!

    • The more I charge as a consultant, the more attention my clients pay to my advice. Glad this post made you think.

  • Mike Glenn

    Maurilio, I’m an old dog trying to learn new tricks. Even I can see how important the social media is going to be to the future of ministry and the church. Why Page doesn’t see this was shocking for to me to discover.

    • Social media has had a great and positive impact in several of the churches I work with, and yet, a lot of pastors can’t see the value of it.

  • Anonymous

    great post. That makes perfect sense. I too was wondering why Google struggled in this area. Very insightful.

  • Oh man, that’s a great observation.nnWhen I was a kid, we painted a bunch of rooms in our house. I tried to convince my mom to get a little creative with the painting. In the final room, she finally did something with some colors, and it turned out great. But all those other rooms…pure white. I’d like to think I’d have a little more influence as an adult 🙂

  • Cynthia Kocialski

    Iu00a0live in Silicon valley, theu00a0center of the high tech industry, andu00a0this scenario hasu00a0played out over and over again with the icons of the tech world.u00a0 Companies, such as Google, became who they areu00a0because of one core competency. Intel is a processor company but Intel has tried to diversify and expand into many other areas of technology and has never acheived great success. It doesn’t matter which company you look at – Microsofr, eBay, Dell, and on and on. They dabble in alot of different types of products but achieve only mild success at best.u00a0 Their core competency and the original product focusu00a0is what produces the bulk of their revenue.u00a0 Start-up fail for the same reason – a company is created, its product thrives in its market, it goes IPO, it becomes the darling of Wall Street, the company’s market changes and it’s never able to find a follow-on winning product, and the publicly traded company disappears – do you remember Redback Networks, MMC Networks, Netscape, or S3?nn

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