Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Is Larry Page the Consummate Anti-Social CEO?

Google’s new CEO isn’t much for the social Web. If he has a presence on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, it was created with deep privacy settings or a fake name. I couldn’t even find a fleshed-out Google profile for Larry Page.

There are many other Fortune 500 CEOs in the same boat, and they certainly have plenty else to do with their time than post Facebook photos from Davos.

But non-Twittering CEOs are likely a dying breed, as transparency and authenticity in corporate communications come into vogue, and the younger generations move up through the ranks.

Google’s entire executive leadership is particularly anti-social for an Internet company, although unlike Page, Eric Schmidt, its CEO of the last 10 years, had the gumption to at least try Twitter and post updates every couple of weeks.

That their bosses decline to participate in what many see as the future of the Web is particularly grating for some young Google employees.

While the company circles around launching its own fully fledged social strategy, many Googlers feel that accountability for “getting social” starts at the top by leaders using the products themselves, rather than outright ignoring them.

Certainly, Page is incredibly private in all sorts of situations, both online and off. Here’s a memorable section from Ken Auletta’s book “Googled”:

“Larry Page is aggressively disdainful of marketing and public relations. In early 2008, Page instructed Google’s public relations department, which consisted of 130 people, that he would only give them a total of eight hours of his time that year for press conferences, speeches or interviews.”

That doesn’t seem like an approach that will go over well now that Page will be CEO of a company of Google’s stature, although perhaps he could save some time by crafting short tweets in lieu of full speeches.

While Page seems to be ignoring the social Web’s existence (he said Thursday he thinks it’s at the “very very early stages,” ceding comment on the topic to his co-founder Sergey Brin), the category has already had a significant competitive effect on Google.

The company says social is not yet negatively impacting its search business, but there are other ways it is creeping in: Through a significant talent drain to companies like Facebook, and a tarnishing of the company’s position as a tech leader.

In a way, part of the reason Page took control seems to be in response to the rise of Facebook, although there are clearly many other factors at play).

That’s because Page has now reinstated himself in a sacred position in Silicon Valley: The founder CEO.

One of the most impactful things the social Web has done is raised a new founder CEO to the tip-top of the tech industry: Mark Zuckerberg.

And, according to sources, the rise of Zuckerberg has been especially hard for Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to watch.

Zuckerberg was also just named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, an honor Page and Brin have never received.

And his company also just arranged a deal to raise money at a $50 billion valuation, making his own stake worth $15 billion, which happens to be the approximate net worth of each Page and Brin.

(As for Zuckerberg’s social media presence, he obviously uses Facebook quite actively, and also has a bare-bones LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account that hasn’t been updated in more than a year. And, like Page, he would not be considered a social butterfly in real life.)

So now Page has returned to presumably make Google innovative again with the passion of a founder. But with 10 years elapsed since he last had the job, he may want to go out and do a little personal market research on this whole social thing.

Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”