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Google’s Shared Endorsements: Marketers, Meet Privacy

Google has joined Facebook in creating an advertising platform to broadcast implicit (or explicit) endorsements.  Google calls it shared endorsements. Here’s how it might work. First, I am logged in to my Google+ account (which almost everyone is these days, even if they don’t know it).  Suppose I see an ad for a pizza restaurant in San Francisco, CA.  I click on that ad.  I even go to that Pizza restaurant, and I love it enough to write a review of it on Google+. So there’s a continuum here: my search, my click on an ad, my visit to the website, and then my review of the site.  Suppose I am your friend, and we are connected on Google+.

Now the fun begins.

You start searching for pizza.  You see an ad for that same pizza restaurant. Below the ad, you’ll see some stars and you’ll see my smiling face (my picture from Google+) and an implication that I endorse the restaurant. Presto: I have “endorsed” the restaurant, and Google has leveraged my “endorsement” to get you to click on their ad as well.

According to Google:

To ensure that your recommendations reach the people you care about, Google sometimes displays your reviews, recommendations and other relevant activity throughout its products and services.

So if you review a business, or use the Google+ one button and “+1” a website… Google has now changed it terms of service to say that you are allowing it to use that “endorsement” to share with your friends or connections, via advertisements.

Here’s a screenshot from the official Google announcement:

Shared Endorsements

Where this Gets Weird: Cross-overs Between Personal and Public

If you are a computer nerd, like I am, you must like certain movies.  These are reference points for understanding important issues such as how Google and Facebook are massively selling our privacy down the river. For example: Frau Farbissina. She and Dr. Evil have a love affair, and at one point, they discuss how “it got weird.” They co-mingled their professional lives as super evil superstars and their personal lives as lovers.  “It got weird.”

Shared Endorsements: It Will Get WeirdThese endorsements for users can “get weird.”  Suppose, for example, that I “+1” a site that sells organic baldness cures for me (because, yes, I obsess about my hair).  Then you go online and start searching for haircare products as well.  You and I “find out” that we both obsess about our hair.  Perhaps we didn’t want to share that.  Perhaps we did.  But Google is now making that choice for us. And it’s a bit weirder because you get to see that I endorsed the place, but I don’t necessarily get to see that you clicked on the ad: it’s a one-way transaction.

Furthermore, because many of us (like myself) use Google+ primarily for professional reasons and then use Google+ Local for more consumer-based reasons (reviews of restaurants, etc.)… then we have this issue of what we share on one, gets shared on the other.  We are co-mingling our professional and personal lives in some strange ways.  “It will get weird.”

Marketing Implications of Shared Endorsements

As marketers, especially, if you sell “fun” consumer products like outdoor ski equipment, restaurants, or other “non-controversial items” this might be a good add-on to an AdWords campaign. With the caveats that not zillions of people use Google+ (yet). But if you sell things that are more confidential (say, “DUI attorney,” or “insurance for high-risk drivers”), not so much.

The marketing implications are separate from the consumer implications (for now).  But then if you pay a little attention you can see a huge tidal wave of anti-Google and anti-Facebook consumer backlash coming over privacy. After our government fixes the financial problems, espect some government regulation of this in the future.  Google and Facebook are too greedy to see how damaging this all is to their reputations, and too arrogant in their status as near monopolies to “get it.”

It will get weird.


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