With the launch of Google+ earlier this week, the advertising industry (with a little coaxing) has begun to suggest how the combination of search and social should play out, from cost models to metrics.
Aside from member limitations and bugs, the site has challenges.
For starters, Google may have to rely on search and display advertising because "Circles" may not be conducive to brand advertising. "It's difficult to see how Circles could support following a brand," said Gene Liebel, partner and chief strategy officer at Huge. "Imagine a brand has a bunch of things you can follow, like news, deals, contests, specific product categories. To make it work, you would need to completely reverse the Circles paradigm and somehow let the user put themselves in the brand's various circles."
Brand advertising just seems to click on Facebook.
Facebook took the content of interaction with brands and tied it with the social graph and connections. When a Faceboook member "Likes" a brand or interacts with it in some way, the interactions are eligible to become ads in what the social network calls Sponsored Stories. "Those ads are very effective in getting the attention of someone's social connections," said Justin Merickel, vice president of marketing and new product development at Efficient Frontier. "Not only do friends see the endorsement, but they are engaged and involved with the brand."
It's something Google should replicate in Google+, Merickel said. Features such as Uploads or Huddle -- opportunities structured around brand engagement -- would become powerful for advertisers, he said. The social endorsement explicit in the ad unit, along with the brand interaction that becomes the ad, makes the model unique.
Metrics will play a key role in Google+. The symbol +1 became the first signal. Google stores the clicks. Someone searching on Google finds a retail site and clicks on +1, and the information is stored not only for the brand or retailer to see, but also in the Google+ profile of the user.
The +1 button creates data and audience sets. The Facebook-like "Like" button will calculate data and metrics, helping to build relevant searches and the social graph within Google+ for advertisers that want to target members. Marketers call these interest categories.
Assuming that Google incorporates +1 data on Web sites or ads into its quality score algorithm, it would reward advertisers that are popular with +1 users and punish those that are not, said Matt Lawson, vice president of marketing at Marin Software. "Google+ will allow Google to collect demographic data on individuals who enter things like their location, age, education, or employer," said Lawson. "These characteristics are critical for advertisers to target ads."
Merry Morud, online marketing account manager at aimClear, reminds us that in Facebook, marketers can target based on who people are -- but with search, marketers can target based on what users want at that precise moment.
Advertisers have been looking at different metrics for social media. Some use cost per engagement, which is not typically in social media when considering cost per fan, Merickel said. He also points to Twitter as offering unique metrics. Some brands use retweets as a measure of advertising success. For example, if a brand sponsors a tweet and pays for the content to appear at the top of a Twitter stream, it could get redistributed further out with the endorsement of members retweeting it.
Merickel said the metrics have begun to make sense in social media. They consider Twitter streams and a cost per follow, where followers are counted. When it comes to social media, these metrics did not previously exist in online advertising, which has traditionally relied on CPM and cost per click.