Google’s Social Media Team Reaches to Agencies (and hosts Facebook, MySpace, and H&R Block)

Left Image: The panel: Dick Costolo from Google, Paula Drum from H&R Block, Chris George from MySpace, and Tom Arrix of Facebook. See more pics on Picassa.

Did you know that Google has a social media team intent on reaching brands and agencies? I didn’t either, and it’s my job to know.

A few weeks ago I spoke at Google Chicago at an event for interactive agencies, Scuba Chris has the details, I presented my latest research The Best and Worst of Social Network Marketing followed by VP of Marketing Paula Drum of H&R Block. She was absolutely amazing as she toured the agencies through all the different social media programs that they’ve done over the past year, one amazing feat, at least to me was she was able to get several of her agencies to work together on projects –nicely done.

[Although this newly formed Google Social Media product team has big backing and a hot shot product set, to truly be a solution partner to brands and agencies, Google will have to deliver the right services, support, and reporting –not be a one off technology vendor]

Perhaps what’s really interesting is that Google, often known for being a bit quiet on the PR front, invited MySpace, and Facebook to participate on a panel with us. I moderated a panel that included:

Chris George- VP of Ad Solutions, MySpace
Tom Arrix – VP of Sales, Facebook
Dick Costolo – Head of Product Management, Google Social Media (Twitter)
Paula Drum, VP of Marketing, Digital Tax Solutions, H&R Block (Twitter)

You see, Google has a story to tell about how they can help brands with social media, while most overlook YouTube, and Orkut as marketable social networks, there’s quite a few tools they offer such as iGoogle, Google Friend Connect, and the protocol they lead called OpenSocial.

To be successful, Google will absolutly need to open up and engage in the dialog that they want to participate in, being part of the social media conversation where agencies, brands and vendors are chatting and jockeying for every day. Why? I asked H&R’s Paula if she’d ever hire an agency that didn’t practice what they preach, and she said “no”. The interactive agencies, and Google know the importance of participating.

I then asked the agencies how many of them actually eat their own dogfood, a few sheepishly were bold enough to admit they do not yet sell the social media services.

The panel was amazing, I had Facebook, MySpace, and Google there, and H&R Block to represent the demand side (the most important side), I asked a few hard questions, such as why Facebook hadn’t joined OpenSocial, the panelist punted and said: “That was a question for Mark Zuckerberg” MySpace talked about media and self-expression, and did a good job responding to my questions on why their CTRs were so low. Facebook jockeyed back and retorted that their community is for “real people” and not fake personas. The two were having a good time despite some casual coughing during each others questions –all in good fun.

Out of everyone I met, the person I was the most struck with was Dick Costello, who was the founder and CEO of Feedburner which is now part of the Google portfolio, also impressive is Yvette from the social media team as well as her colleagues, Sarah Hoople, Google is known to hire the cream of the crop.

Until that day, I didn’t know that Google had a ‘social media’ team, and if I didn’t know (as an industry analyst) then chances are many others don’t either –Google, is slowly coming out of it’s shell, so watch these folks.

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