When Google launched its Google+ social network, the marketing world (along with everyone else) barely noticed. When Google decided to make this social network a bigger part of search results, marketers had little choice but to sit up and take action.
Over the last week or so, we at Motivity have spent a fair amount of time talking to clients and constituents about Google’s latest move, and what’s emerging is a picture of concern and skepticism. But don’t fret yet. And don’t get so caught up in the controversy that you fail to evaluate the marketing implications.
Is Participation Mandatory?
Many of the advertisers I have spoken to feel they are being forced into participation in Google’s social platform because of the recent addition of Search Plus Your World. Indeed, on the consumer side, Google+ participation for new users is mandatory, and it feels mandatory for many marketers, as well.
It doesn’t help that the average advertiser’s experience of working with Google leaves much to be desired. Google’s connection to advertisers has been rocky for quite some time, with the possible exception of the top-tier advertisers and those that don’t conflict with or compete with Google’s way of doing business. The indifference and perpetual lack of customer service for anyone other than the top bananas leaves a lot of folks feeling cold.
Additionally, marketers — the paying customers — are growing tired of having new products sprung on them the same way Google surprises the (largely) non-paying consumers. We’ve grown accustomed to the idea that consumers participating in social media have unwittingly become the products served on pretty platters to advertisers. But shouldn’t the companies paying Google get a bit more notice?
The sales approach doesn’t sit well with some, either. Clearly some brands felt an adversarial push from Google when Plus launched. Every meeting I sat in on with Google centered on “when” and “how” advertisers were to add their brands to Plus. It was never an “if” or “why” discussion. Without getting into another Googleopoly tête-à-tête, is that just good salesmanship (assume the sale) or a powerful controlling company asserting its influence?
Setting all these negative perceptions aside, let’s look at what’s really happening here.
Will Social Add Value?
I really don’t think my friends like the same things I do. Beyond the basics of a good pizza joint, the latest place to knock back a few pints or dry cleaner that won’t set my Loro Piana suits ablaze, isn’t the process of identifying and surfacing influence within my circles just another silly layer of useless data that does nothing but add confusion and complication?
Take a deep breath. There’s more to it.
Our ability and subsequent desire to share every minute detail of our lives has turned the human interest and behavior set into a product that no digital media company could ever resist selling into — and marketers should figure out a good way to take advantage. While usage of Google Plus isn’t yet what it could be in the coming years, the logic behind its Circles approach is sound — I don’t want my work people mixing with my personal people thereby creating lines of communication that should never (ever) be connected.
You can’t think of Plus or Search Plus Your World in today’s terms. Think of what it represents; a world where everyone’s relationships, deeds and interests are neatly organized so anyone with a marketing budget can pick and choose Circles Chinese-menu style.
Whether that is good or bad thing for society is another discussion.
Have We Missed The Boat?
I get the feeling some the folks pontificating about the pros and cons of Google’s dominance have forgotten what it’s like to be sitting in front of a CMO talking about the relationship between search, social media and other online marketing disciplines. What’s most important — one of the biggest challenges marketers face — is determining which of the latest shiny objects deserve precious resources. It’s easy to get caught up in the quicksand of these difficult decisions.
The good news for anyone thinking they missed the Plus boat is that it’s still early. While registrations and activity for Plus are on the rise, our worlds don’t quite revolve around it the way they do with Facebook. Google has yet to ramp up the kind of detail and information offering that will truly make Plus of value to marketers.
I’ll leave you today with two final thoughts. First, avoid wasting time and energy on silly arguments about who should have been on top of the latest change in search’s ongoing interpretative dance. Second, if you really don’t like it, fear not! Next week we’ll all be on to being obsessed with something else.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.