Google : Irregular updates

An executive’s lack of activity on Google+ highlights the risks of encouraging management teams to use social media.

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The Site

A clever use of Google+ for the US-based search giant’s online management profiles is undermined by a lack of posts from its chief legal officer.

David Drummond, Google’s senior vice president for corporate development and chief legal officer, is one of five Executive Officers profiled on ‘About Google’, the closest example Google has to a traditional corporate site. There are three paragraphs of conventional biography alongside an image of Drummond, and an informal-sounding link, ‘David on Google+’, which invites users to click through to see what he’s been saying on the search engine’s home-grown social media channel.

The answer is not very much. The most recent post on Drummond’s Google+ page is more than a year old (June 2013) and the one before that was from April 2012.

The Takeaway

Google’s unconventional use of social media for management profiles is to be applauded in principle at least. Linking to executives’ individual Google+ pages conveys a positive impression of openness and transparency, and is just one example of how the company uses its web estate to promote Google+ as a viable alternative to other more popular social media rivals, namely Facebook. It is also in keeping with Google’s desire to position itself as an innovator and its stated aim to ‘ignore conventional wisdom in designing its business’.

David Drummond’s other four fellow Executive Officers have done a comparably good job keeping their Google+ pages updated. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman and former CEO, appears to be the most prolific, with numerous posts in August 2014 alone, and a consistent record of updates. Patrick Pichette, the chief financial officer, has been nearly as busy on his page, posting updates on everything from cycling, to holiday photos, to his ‘boosted board’, an electric skateboard. Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, also post a few times a month on personal and professional topics.

Drummond stands out not only for his lack of activity on the site, but also the business-only nature of his posts. For example, Drummond’s June 2013 message begins ‘Dear Google users’ and is a corporate statement responding to allegations that Google gave the US government access to its data centres. The formality might be appropriate in other corporate contexts but clashes oddly with his colleagues’ posts on skateboards and sunsets.

This highlights one of the risks of encouraging senior executives to use social media channels (and indeed blogs) in a high profile way. Perhaps just as bad as the risk of them going off message is the risk of them not sending out any messages at all. It’s also not exactly a ringing endorsement of Google+ as a useful communications channel.
First published 03 September, 2014
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