Earlier this year the pundits were puzzled when Google tied general employee compensation to Google's success in social. Is it really fair to tie all employee's compensation packages to one team's success?
This was a fundamental misunderstanding of Google's approach to social. Let me illustrate:
About a year ago I had a fascinating discussion with an engineer at Google. This was our fourth time spending a weekend together at a mutual friend's place, and I reluctantly admitted that I still wasn't using his product with much regularity. When he started discussing their iterative development approach I begged him to get into social and speak with the users of his product. I was shocked to find out that he already was!
His team at Google was not building in a vacuum. They had a community lead who was participating in a support forum, representing the broader Google team. This community lead took questions from the community, provided answers and shared the community feedback with the engineers/developers. All of this was happening within a defined forum. I had no idea that Google was doing this.
Astronomical numbers of people make the choice to use Google's products every day. Before Plus, we interacted with Googlers through their products. We never really thought about the wizard behind the curtain. A product was experienced, not discussed (at least not with Google).
Google+ represents a fundamental shift in corporate communications and product development. Google brought community managers and product representatives into Google+ from day one. Google hasn't just participated in the dialog, but has been and continues to be incredibly agile and transparent in addressing customer needs and requests. This isn't a radically new model for Google, it's just far more scaled, present and transparent to the general public - and all the more meaningful for it.
THIS is why and how Google can hold the broader employee base responsible for the success of Google in social. Google's future is not just in product development, but social product communications and possibly even collaboration. Google's was already social company, they just weren't yet engaging the rest of us. If the rest of Google can attain the celebrity and responsiveness of Mark Striebeck and the Gmail team, this is going to change the way we view and interact with Google. If my assumption is correct, nearly every employee in Google should be part of or otherwise supporting this dialog.
Few brands or corporations are ready for this level of employee engagement and collaboration with the general public. This not only changes the game for Google, it creates a higher standard for the rest of us.