Cannes 2011

Eric Schmidt Outlines Google's Strategy for Social

Speaking at Cannes, the Executive Chairman Says Efforts Focus on Getting More User Information to Improve Products

By Published on .

If you're waiting for Google to take another run at creating a competitor to Facebook, don't hold your breath.

"Our social strategy is to take our current products, get users to give us social information and make our current products better," said executive chairman Eric Schmidt, talking to a small group of journalists following his address to the ad festival here.

This strategy comes after the release of a few failed or struggling social products. The best-known of which may be Google Buzz, launched last year to immediate privacy complaints and a general lack of interest, Since then, it has failed to grab traction with consumers. Google recently rolled out its +1 button, which allow users to recommend web pages they like via their Google Profile page.

As an example of the current strategy, Mr. Schmidt talked about getting more information from YouTube users in order to offer more targeted video.

Google has taken a lot of criticism for its failures in the social space, where others, such as Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and the now publicly traded LinkedIn, have seen their valuations soar. Asked whether these valuations are indications of a tech bubble, Mr. Schmidt said it was too soon to tell.

"The numbers you're seeing are coming from a very small number of shares trading in vibrant market," he said. "It's not mathematically correct to say anything. You have to have more supply and momentum.

"In the bubble 10 years ago," he continued, "I decided to pay attention to what the major newspapers said. In the U.S., the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Economist have all announced this is a bubble. Having said that , this could go on for a while at current valuations. It's an interesting question, but not very important to answer."

Why has he decided to pay attention to the media's take on the bubble question?

"Because I didn't sell at the top 10 years ago."

Asked whether Google's stock has benefited from the bubble, he offered a no comment.

Mr. Schmidt otherwise offered a predictably bullish take on Google's immediate future, pointing to successes in display advertising -- which he sees a $10 million to $20 billion business down the road -- and in mobile, where Google's Android mobile operating system has overtaken Apple's as the most popular.

During a similarly wide-ranging discussion with Google Creative Lab's Andy Berndt in a packed auditorium earlier in the day, Mr. Schmidt talked about Google's Super Bowl ad, which, based on incremental search traffic, turned out to be a good investment. Mr. Schmidt was skeptical of the idea when it was presented to him because of Google's historical resistance to brand advertising. "Hell has frozen over," he said.

But the ad worked.

"It paid for itself," he said. "We turned a Super Bowl ad into an ROI phenomenon."

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Follow Matthew Creamer on Twitter: @matt_creamer

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