Google Moves Into Endorsements -- Which Makes Me Not Want To Endorse Anything

If you didn’t follow social media news this past week, you wouldn’t be the only one. What with all the sturm und drang over the government shutdown, the looming debt ceiling crisis, and a positive cornucopia of political posturing available 24/7 all week long, who could even pay attention to Facebook, or Google, or even Twitter’s IPO?

Still, there was some social media news that managed to catch my eye, amazingly enough. And that’s that Google is moving into the same “endorsement” social ad territory currently employed by Facebook. In other words, don’t feign shock if your mug suddenly pops up when your friends are in Google Plus or Google Play endorsing something that once, in a moment of wild impulse, you decided that you were going to let the world know you liked.

While the point of social advertising like this certainly is to use the power of word-of-mouth to ignite interest in a brand, there’s something persistently icky about this kind of endorsement, one in which a platform uses your proverbial thumbs-up for the potential betterment of itself and the advertiser, but not really you. Sometimes it saddens me that one of the key facts I know about one of my far-flung Facebook friends is that he likes FAGE yogurt. I, do, too, but is this really how Michael wants to be remembered? And what on earth did he get out of the ad?

One answer is that he got unfettered access to Facebook, which, I often point out is a free service, so we should all quit whining about ads. So let’s look at these types of social ads from another perspective, from the vantage point of the advertisers and platforms that  support the form. Are these ads really worth the price of admission: potentially alienating users who had no idea that their data and images were going to be used in this way? (Seriously, who reads deep enough into the terms of service to realize this is happening? It’s the kind of thing that users only realize after the fact.)

And, do these types of social ads really have the same kind of word-of-mouth power as a conversation, on platform or off, between two friends about a product?

I think not. While individual users may be blithely ignorant of the fact that their likenesses sometimes show up endorsing products they’ve liked, they are much less naïve when they see a friend of theirs “endorsing” a brand in an ad on a social platform. Only a fool would think that contracts were signed between FAGE yogurt and Michael before he popped up as what appears to be one of its biggest fans. That essentially means that these ads aren’t word-of-mouth at all, but word-of-click; instead of person-to-person information, it’s person-to-platform-to-person, and that’s a different beast.

This practice won’t stop any time soon, particularly if the ROI, at least on a campaign-by-campaign basis, works. But the downside of this kind of social ad is more long-term: the more we users are used as endorsers, the less likely we are to commit to “liking” anything, at least in the very public nature of a social platform.

10 comments about "Google Moves Into Endorsements -- Which Makes Me Not Want To Endorse Anything".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Steven Sevell from Sevell+Sevell, Inc., October 14, 2013 at 12:37 p.m.

    Wow, that is an insightful and interesting article. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  2. Terry Wall from First Impressions VIdeo, October 14, 2013 at 1:14 p.m.

    I think most of my friends 'get it,' so they just ignore the ads, just as I do. If they are intrigued about a product or service that I allegedly 'liked,' they will probably ask for more info offline.

  3. E.B. Moss from AdLarge, October 14, 2013 at 1:15 p.m.

    Interestingly, FourSquare has enabled this for all advertisers as well, this week...which will eventually dilute and add mistrust of previously authentic "likes" and recommendations.

  4. Stuart Jenner from Marketek Consulting Group, October 14, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.

    One of the hard decisions now is: "Do I suggest to clients that they ask their satisfied customers to post in +1?" There are some risks to this. It is asking an awful lot.

    What Google is doing is like asking your friend for a ride not just to the local airport, but to an airport 3 hours away, with a departure time of 4 am. I had the exact same reaction as Catherine: "I am going to be really careful about +1ing anything."

    Does anyone know how long these +1s will be grabbed by Google after the post? Let's say someone has +1d a service, then they find a better service? Or what if they've +1d two services, one of which was better in one instance and one was better in another? Which one would Google choose?

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 14, 2013 at 2:44 p.m.

    Free service = ads. Got it. Free service = right to sell private information and right to represent user past death do you part. Should be illegal. There is a rather simple yet difficult answer to this.,,,Don't use Google plus and stop liking things. Just buy the product if you like it or don't. Only the advertiser cares if you like it. If their sales are not increasing when giving Google all that money for all of those likes, then whose the fool ? Nobody else gives half an anything about your opinion of self importance of anything.

  6. Stosh TheMan from aCompany, October 14, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.

    There are so many ways to think about this and deal with it.
    As a consumer you can:
    - not "like" anything
    - write reviews good and bad
    - "like" everything and make noise
    For advertisers it gets around the email spam problem since the consumer isn't paying for it.
    But advertisers will only use it of there is an ROI.
    but really, are this adverts going to fool anyone. I agree they are more likely to alienate than engage.
    We already mentally block the right-hand column that's mostly advertising.
    So we now have to add another psychological filter to our web use.
    Guess which sites I'll be abandoning ...

  7. Eric Wittlake from Babcock & Jenkins, October 15, 2013 at 12:04 p.m.

    Thankfully you can disable it. I was a bit stunned when I did and I got this message:

    "When you disable this setting, your friends will be less likely to benefit from your recommendations."

    They are positioning the ads now as a service to your friends so they are more likely to know what you recommend.

    Seriously, Google?

  8. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA), October 15, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.

    Catherine, I like to be a contrarian, and so I actually think the Google move enriches the consumer experience. I posted my thoughts here:

  9. Stephen Baldwin from Didit, October 15, 2013 at 5:02 p.m.

    G+ Disabled. Facebook account deleted. Enough of this nonsense. I wouldn't endorse even if they paid me.

    How small and petty the world's suddenly become...

  10. Al DiGuido from Optimus Publishing, October 19, 2013 at 11:18 a.m.

    Last time I checked...both Google & Facebook are public companies whose value rests in their ability to generate profitable quarters so that their shareholders and investors generate greater value in their portfolios. EVERY decision in this "Social Network" is focused on generating greater audience & engagement that can be monetized. These are not non profit organizations. They have real costs and need to generate revenue in order to cover them and generate profits. Endorsements is yet another device that breathes another reason for those who interact with the Google platform to return and spend time. When they do..they create more marketable activity that can be monetized by the company. Google has proven to be very good at making all sorts of cash on marketable activities. As the company will be under pressure to continue to build incremental revenue streams to feed the monster that has been created. If not..value to investors,shareholders and advertisers will diminish. It's the world we live in...There is no free social network....that can "survive"

Next story loading loading..