Google’s recent announcement (via confidential internal company email) that it will be tying employee bonuses to Google’s success at developing and releasing social products sounds like a standard company incentive plan. To get everyone on board with the effort, tie compensation to the success of the firm. For companies selling things, these types of efforts make sense: a corporation hopefully gets buy-in and people work together to advance the company by selling widgets or whatever.
But does it work for social? In the post on GigaOm that discusses Google’s new efforts, titled “Dear Google: You Can’t Threaten People Into Being Social,” blogger Matthew Ingram makes a number of great points, the chief of which is that Google wasn’t designed to be social. Facebook was. Attempts to be social, from Google Buzz to Google +1, look like “me too” technologies. I can’t help but think that forcing employees of a search company to design social applications seems a bit like asking the Rancher’s Association to publish a vegetarian cookbook to capture the “Meatless Monday” crowd. To state the patently obvious, search is something that you typically engage in because you are looking for something–say, a quick answer to a question or conducting research. These are usually going to be narrowly constructed answers, delivered in response to a specific question. There’s nothing social about it, directed search is by its nature an activity that is: specific, individual, and–most importantly–it’s usually something you want to conduct quickly. To me this is the exact opposite of a network like Facebook, which is: broad, community based, and usually people linger. So forcing Google to be social feels a bit square peg/round hole.
Just as interesting as Ingram’s article on Google was another post he links to from December titled “What If You Were Paid Based on Your Klout Score?” According to the post, Salesforce.com somehow ties compensation to analytics gleaned from an internal Twitter-like program called Chatter.
Some people are quite simply more social than others. Some feel more comfortable with technology than others, and this doesn’t just tie to age. Is it appropriate to set those people up for failure, or limit their earnings based on their personalities? This is beyond a comfort-zone issue, I’m fully aware that people should be asked to stretch beyond their comfort areas, it’s healthy and a growth opportunity. I equate this with forcing a company’s awesome and meticulous–but painfully shy–researcher to hit the convention circuit. Or taking the top-performing sales guy and consigning him to a desk job counting and inventorying widgets instead of going out and selling them. Shouldn’t compensation be tied to either personal performance in the job for which one was hired, or to the overall success of the company? Why tie it to whether someone is a chatterbox on Twitter (unless that’s why they were hired)?
Social is great. It’s connecting people, and it’s forcing companies to see their customers as human beings instead of as targets. Why must we take something that is good and force it to be everywhere, even where it might not fit?
I’m asking again, why is it so hard for people to accept and adopt the “happy medium” with social?