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商业 - 科技

决战社交网络:谷歌逆转Facebook四大关键

Ben Elowitz 2011年06月28日

Facebook是当今社交网络之王,但谷歌不应放弃互联网的未来。

    眼下,谷歌公司(Google)正面临一系列严峻的(有可能最终无法逾越的)挑战。而且,毫无疑问的是:这些挑战已赫然在望,因为Facebook的崛起正日益威胁谷歌公司在互联网的统治地位。

    谷歌要想保住其领先位置,刚刚履新的首席执行官拉里•佩奇就必须为社交网络制定新的规划。同时,作为新任首席执行官,他还必须使投资者确信他能掌控这一大局。

    以下四点有望帮助佩奇光复谷歌公司的统治地位:

1.坦承谷歌公司面临问题。

    佩奇要向员工们承认公司正面临来自网络社会化的巨大威胁:如今互联网的页面浏览量中有25%来自对社交网络的访问,更要命的是这些服务还恰恰都是谷歌公司的敌人——Facebook公司提供的;同时,谷歌在任何社交网络应用中都不占有可观的份额。他还应该向员工们宣布,谷歌的下一个生命周期必须全面进军社交网络服务。此外,佩奇还必须为分析人士提供更多更真实可靠的信息。

    谷歌的高管团队试图掩盖其在社交网络上的软肋,但华尔街可不会上当。尽管佩奇保持缄默,但双方的严词交涉无法避免。实际上,如今的投资者老谋深算,洞若观火,如果既不坦承问题,又不承认机会,只会强化一个事实,即公司的首席执行官根本没有认真对待自己的业务。佩奇原本有机会先发制人,利用近期的分析证明,谷歌已经做好准备,将利用社交网络提供的机遇大干一场。如果这番证言条理清晰,又有实际行动支持,还能有助于凸显谷歌未来所蕴藏的潜力,而这往往是与华尔街交涉时的一个有力的筹码。

2.证明谷歌了解网络演变的趋势。

    Facebook并不仅仅只是一个风靡一时的网站而已。恰恰相反,网络的整个本质都已被它颠覆,从一堆存在服务器上供谷歌扒梳搜索的网页变成世界各地的人们彼此连接,分享生活的平台。同样重要的是,越来越多的网络功能正通过应用程序来实现,而不再以HTML的形式出现。过去,为了适应谷歌,网络开发者必须与HTML兼容,那时终端用户也颇为宽容,用户体验的门槛不高,如今这种日子已经一去不返。现在,网络内容发行商必须做到顾客至上——这就意味着,为顾客提供的内容必须以社交网络、视频和移动设备为基础,在时间、空间和方式上完全满足他们。佩奇需要清楚地表明,他理解网络新时代的“根本法则”;随后,他要清晰地阐释这些法则,并明白无误地阐明其不同之处,以使其业务部门——从搜索和广告这样的赚钱机器到社交网络的试验品——能据此再造自我。比如,如今的世界已充分互联,电子邮件的使用正在走下坡路,Gmail应当顺应变化,更新交流方式,正如七年前,当电子邮件的发展进入上升通道时它对这一领域大举革新那样。而谷歌的应用程序部门则需要重新思考:当用户多数时间都联在网上时,应用程序如何才能超越其仅仅是作为微软公司(Microsoft)Office办公套件替代品的状况。

3.招兵买马,更新人才库

    仅仅对现有人员进行内部调动是不够的;谷歌公司是时候空降一些拯救者了。比如,谷歌需要争取像瓦蒂姆•拉威如斯科这样的名士加盟,他刚刚加入了Facebook公司,协助指导新闻和媒体方面的事务。谷歌还需要修改其招聘方案,招徕类似刚刚加盟了Facebook的行业新星,还有创业型人才。谷歌曾开创过令人叫绝的人力资源方案,吸引了一大批人才,掀起了搜索引擎浪潮;而现在人才大战正如火如荼,Facebook拟上市的计划已把谷歌的美食大厨和个人培训特别优待抛在身后,吸引了最优秀、最聪明的人才前来加盟。谷歌需要更新方案,展示更胜一筹的战略,吸引新一代新星助阵。

4.展示自己在社交网络上的成果

    最后,佩奇应当展示谷歌在大量全新的、社交属性超强的产品和创意上所取得的进展,这些正是谷歌现在所急需的。除了从公司外部引进,公司内部应当酝酿自己利用社交网络的创意。佩奇的奖金计划是个开端,但这不足以在谷歌燃起星星之火,并最终力克Facebook。还未进入搜索市场, Facebook这家私营企业的市值已逼近谷歌的50%。 Facebook目前还没有涉足搜索领域,那是谷歌的后花园;而同样重要的社交领域却已证明是谷歌的雷区。佩奇应当日夜致力于这四大战略,同时就取得的进展与投资者、分析师和员工保持持续不断的沟通。而至于沟通方式,他需要开展的是个人化的深入接触。

    他是谷歌的首席执行官;这是他的职责所在;同时,这也是最高管理者工作中不可或缺的一部分——而直到最近他才主动挑起这副担子。

    佩奇与投资者的首度收入会议对社交网络只字未提。佩奇似乎错误地以为,把社交网络和新近崛起的主要对手掩盖起来,分析人士和关注谷歌动态的媒体就不会注意到社交媒体这一新兴势力,也不会注意到谷歌在社交媒体领域无所作为的现状。然而,事与愿违,Facebook高达780亿美元的估值好比巍峨的雷尼尔山(Mt. Rainer,美国境内著名的火山高峰——译注),佩奇显然无法掩盖。

    谷歌不能无视眼前这座山峰般的绊脚石。谷歌目前缺乏明确的社交网络战略,投资者并不是唯一注意到这一点的群体:为谷歌公司产品进行编码的工程师们也要知道,公司的高层想要扳倒、而不是无视这座大山。

    涨涨跌跌,乃市场常态。但是,像社交网络这样的机遇可谓稍纵即逝。如果佩奇本人和谷歌公司对Facebook如此清晰可见又近在眼前的威胁视而不见,他们慢慢挥霍的将远不止是市值而已。他们是在拿谷歌的卓越做赌注。而这,将是一个巨大的错误。

    艾欧威兹是媒体公司Wetpaint的联合创始人和首席执行官。

    Google is confronting a series of rugged (and, perhaps, ultimately insurmountable) challenges. And make no mistake: these challenges loom large, because Google's dominance of the Internet landscape is increasingly being threatened by Facebook's rise.

    If Google (GOOG) is going to maintain its leadership, still-new CEO Larry Page needs to have a plan for the social Web. And, as the new CEO, he'll need investors to be confident that he's got this handled.

    There are four things Page could do to renew Google's dominance:

1.Admit that Google has a problem.

    Page needs to acknowledge to his employees the enormous threat posed by the socialization of the Web: already, 25 percent of all page views on the Internet are not only social, but served by Google's enemy, Facebook; meanwhile, Google has no significant share whatsoever in any social activity. Google's CEO should also be declaring to his employees that Google's next life stage must be fully social. In addition, Page must offer analysts a more substantive and authentic message.

    When Google's senior executive team sweeps its social Web weakness under the rug, Wall Street isn't fooled. And Page's silence doesn't stop the tough conversation from happening. Indeed, in this age of investor sophistication and watchfulness, admitting neither problems nor opportunities only heightens the fact that the CEO isn't taking his business seriously. Page could have preempted the hard-edged conversation with his analysts recently by proving that Google is ready to fully participate in the opportunity presented by the social Web. If framed well, and backed by demonstrative action, this could even help to highlight the potential upside in Google's future, and that's always a positive when it comes to dealing with the Street.

2.Show Google understands how the Web is changing.

    Facebook isn't just another really popular Web site. Rather, the entire nature of the Web has been transformed from a bunch of pages on servers that Google crawls, to the world's people connected to each other and sharing their lives. Just as significant, more and more of the Internet's capabilities are delivered via apps, rather than on HTML forms. Gone are the days when Web developers would make everything HTML-compliant just for Google's sake, while end-users had forgivingly low bars for their own experiences. Now, customers must come first to publishers – and that means providing them with content when, where, and how they want it in the social networks, in video, and on mobile devices. Page needs to clearly show that he understands the "ground rules" of the new Web; then he needs to lay them out crisply, with their differences distinctly noted, so that his business units – from the moneymakers of search and advertising to the experiments in social media – can start remaking themselves accordingly. Gmail, for example, should be reinventing communication for a fully connected world in which email usage is on the decline, just as it reinvented the category when email was still on the rise seven years ago; and Google Apps needs to rethink how applications can be so much more than mere Microsoft Office stand-ins when its users are connected to the Web most of the time.

3.Recruit hard for new talent.

    It's not enough to rotate the deck chairs and the bodies that sit in them; it's time for Google to parachute in some rescuers. For example, Google needs to win notables like Vadim Lavrusik, who just joined Facebook, to help guide social content in news and media; and it also needs to remake its employment proposition to attract the up-and-coming stars like those who have joined Facebook, as well as those who have started their own companies. Google developed an amazing human resources formula that attracted a slew of talent to fuel the search wave; but now the talent wars are underway, and Facebook's pre-IPO buzz has leapfrogged over Google's gourmet chef and personal training perks to attract the best and the brightest. Google needs to reinvent its formula and demonstrate a winning strategy to attract the next generation of stars.

4.Show your work on social.

    Finally, Page should be demonstrating progress on a host of new, socially supercharged products and ideas that Google desperately needs right now. In addition to pulling from the outside, the company should be incubating its own ideas to take advantage of the social Web. Page's incentive compensation plan is a start, but it doesn't go nearly far enough to light a fire that will help Google out-compete Facebook, a private company that has already garnered nearly 50 percent of Google's own market capitalization – without having even signaled an entry into the search marketplace yet. Google's home turf of search is uncharted territory for Facebook, but, just as importantly, the social terrain has already proven a minefield for Google. Page should be working on these four items each and every day. But he should also be communicating his progress in these areas on an ongoing basis to investors and analysts, as well as employees. And, as for how, the outreach needs to be personal. 

He's Google's CEO; it's his responsibility; and it's an integral part of the top job – a job, by the way, that he recently chose to assume and shoulder.

    In his debut earnings call with investors, Page made nary a mention of social. By sweeping the social Web and his new chief competitor under the rug, Page seemed to be making the false assumption that the analysts and media covering the company wouldn't notice the rising force of social or Google's lack of social progress. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, because Facebook's $78 billion valuation represents a lump beneath the rug that's nearly the size of Mt. Rainier.

    Google can't just ignore this mountainous marketplace impediment. And investors aren't the only ones that take notice of Google's lack of strategy here: the engineers coding Google's products need to know that their leaders want to attack, not ignore, the mountain.

    Markets go up, and markets go down. But opportunities like the social Web come along only so often. So, if Page and Google remain radio silent on Facebook's clear and present threat, they'll be frittering away much more than their market cap. They'll be gambling with their greatness. And that would be a huge mistake.

    --Elowitz is co-founder and CEO of media company Wetpaint.

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