Larry Page’s first week as CEO of Google started with the departure of a longtime senior company executive and ended with a redefinition of the company based around six areas of core competency with six newly minted SVPs to guide their own product groups. But one of the six areas just might be a little more important to Page than the others, as evidenced by the way the company is apparently calculating employee bonuses this year.

Late Thursday night word broke that Page had promoted the following folks to the following jobs, essentially outlining the search giant’s product strategy for the foreseeable future:

  • Andy Rubin – SVP of Mobile
  • Salar Kamangar – SVP of YouTube and Video
  • Vic Gundotra – SVP of Social
  • Sundar Pichai – SVP of Chrome
  • Alan Eustace – SVP of Search
  • Susan Wojcicki – SVP of Ads

Here’s the kicker, though: According to a report from earlier this week, Google is tying all employee bonuses this year to how well the company’s Social efforts fare. Doesn’t matter if you’re Vic Gundotra himself or an engineer working on ads whose only link to Social is that you’re required to test stuff internally; your bonus will be calculated according to a fancy formula that more or less reduces to, “How badly did Facebook and Twitter kick our butts this year?” I suppose it could also be based on, “How badly did we kick their butts this year,” though I kinda have a hard time seeing +1 out-friending either of those just yet.

Graphic via

The problem Google faces in “Social” is more complicated than I likely understand, in all honesty. But one main chunk of it probably boils down to this: Google has made a fortune, and amassed a ton of global influence, in dominating search – search of the wide open World Wide Web. But now there’s Facebook and Twitter, these crazy walled garden social networks. First of all, Facebook does an insane amount of traffic every day, and a good chunk of those visitors don’t much need to leave FB. So there’s a ton of activity – searching, serving ads, watching videos – that Google has no control over or ability to monetize. There’s the potential for Twitter to pose a similar problem for Google, though that’s more likely to come in the way of a real-time search engine of some sort.

Second, what if people keep using social networks to the point where they rely more on their friends and followers than Google when it comes time to look something up online? In other words, what if sharing becomes more important than searching – or if people share to the point that Facebook or Twitter (or Hi5 or whoever) can out-google Google with their own closed-network search engines? When searching my social networks becomes more useful than searching the Web, Google is in trouble.

So Google’s gotta get serious about Social, and find a way to do with +1 (or something) what they haven’t been able to do with Buzz or Orkut (or Wave or Jaiku or …). Google has to leverage people’s interest in the Social Web in a way that gives them a serious way to compete with Facebook’s ever growing walled garden, a garden inside of which Google and their AdSense-sprinkled search results are invisible. Apparently their new CEO thinks so, or why would he be tying every one of his employee’s short-term financial future to the success of Social?

[Via: Business Insider]