It's rare that a company admits the error of its ways, but that's exactly what Google has done when it comes to social networking. It's admitted its shortcomings, and is looking to find a social media guru to help it get on the right path.
For some reason, many companies have unaccountable blind spots, where they can't seem to get a particular technology right. For Microsoft over the years, it's been networking. And for Google, it's been social networking.
Case in point: Google Buzz. At launch, it caused a privacy outcry, and it could lead to investigations of Google for privacy invasions. But even if it didn't cause privacy problems, it still would have been a dud. Rather than turning Gmail into a social communications hub linking to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, Buzz tried to replace them.
Microsoft has been much smarter about using email as a hub for social networking, with its Outlook Social Connector. And Microsoft Docs for Facebook brings social networking to the online version of Office.
Then there's Google's social networking site Orkut. Remember Orkut? No one else does, either --- if you're not from Brazil, that is. For some reason, Orkut dominates the social networking scene in Brazil. But Google wants to dominate the world, not just the only Portugese-speaking nation in South America.
Google has finally recognized that it's in trouble when it comes to social networking, and is looking for a social networking guru to help it figure out what to do. GigaOm claims that Google has hired an executive recruiting agency to help it find a "Head of Social." Most revealing is this job description, that GigaOm claims is in the recruiting letter:
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.
It's refreshing to see a company admit that it has been mistaken, and especially refreshing for the company to be "appropriately humble." Given that attitude, I wouldn't be surprised to see Google eventually succeed at social networking --- in time, that is.