Google's Schmidt (finally) takes to Google+

Google's executive chairman joins the social network three months after its launch

After being noticeably absent from his company's own social network, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt finally has joined the ranks of Google+ users.

On Wednesday, Schmidt used Google+ to share links to comments he made on the passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. What was noteworthy about Schmidt's posts was that they marked his first public foray onto Google+, even though the social network was unveiled last June.

Google executives have been taking it on the chin over the past few weeks since Tech blogger Michael Degusta reported that most members of the company's management team aren't using Google+.

Degusta noted that while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg uses his social network and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweets several times a day, Google executives aren't drinking their own Kool-Aid.

"So how about Google CEO Larry Page? It's been over 3 months since Google+ launched, and he's only made 7 public posts, including just one since mid-August," wrote Degusta. "Turns out that's still 7 more posts than Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has ever made. Since Google+ launched, Mr. Schmidt has found time to retweet Ivanka Trump's promotion of Snow Flower & The Secret Fan, but apparently couldn't find time to even join Google+."

He added that several of Google's board members either don't have Google+ accounts or have never made any posts. He also noted that only three of the 12 people listed on the Google management team page have ever made a single public post on Google+.

Google didn't respond to requests for comment.

But the day after Google software engineer Steve Yegge accidentally posted a rant about Google's management and handling of Google+ on the social network, Schmidt has an account and has made a few posts.

"To me, Schmidt's move to Google+ is pretty obvious and transparent," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "Google+ has received some bad publicity surrounding the low number of Google execs who use the site. Add in the frank comments of a Google engineer, who wrote a devastating and frank critique of Google's Google+ approach, and starting up a Google+ account suddenly ranks pretty high on Google executives' to-do lists."

Both Olds and Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, said it looks bad for a company's executives not to use its big products.

"Honestly I think that executives who run a company and can, but choose not to, use that company's products, should be replaced by executives who have a passion for what the company builds," Enderle said. "It showcases a disconnect between the executives and the firm's products and helps explain the low ... quality of Google's newer products. "

However, Bradley Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis, said it was inevitable that Schmidt would get on board with Google+, and the move has likely been in the works for some time.

Shimmin said he would refrain, for the moment, from making any judgment calls about the tough media attention Google has been getting over the absence of its own executives' on Google+, the rise or fall in the number of Google+ users and criticism from within its ranks.

"I will wait to call the product a success or failure until after Google has integrated this service within its Google Apps for Business suite," he added. "It seems unlikely that Google+, as a consumer-facing service, will outperform rivals such as Facebook, LinkedIn and others in terms of popularity and user counts. But the service stands a real chance of disrupting the enterprise social networking marketplace, particularly within the midmarket where cloud-borne collaborative services are the norm."

Olds noted that Google+ is showing strong growth, but since the service is just a few months old and starting from zero, catching up with Facebook is going to take time and will require a good deal of innovation.

"It's going to be a long climb to get close to Facebook," he added. "Getting their own execs using the service that they're touting as the be-all, end-all social networking site would be a good start. If they don't use it, why should we?"

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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