By B.L. Ochman
Dear Google: You’ve made a huge mistake in the way you announced your new terms of service. The way you did it made people angry. Very silly!
On Oct 11, Google announced terms of service changes that will allow the company to feature users’ names and photos in certain parts of its advertising.
When the new ad policy goes live on Nov. 11, Google will be able to show what the company calls “shared endorsements” on Google sites and across the Internet, where more than 1 billion people view content on more than 2 million sites in Google’s display advertising network.
Unfortunately, according to researchers at the University of Nottingham, the new terms of service use more complex language than Beowulf or War and Peace. Google, you see, isn’t exactly great at explaining things.
New rules allow Google to include adult users’ names, photos, reviews, comments and recommendations in ads shown across the Web, based on ratings, reviews and posts they have made on Google Plus and other Google services like YouTube. However, “You can control whether your image and name appear in ads via the Shared Endorsements setting.” That means you can opt out. Simply check a box that says you don’t want your endorsements shared.
The Huck Finn Strategy
And that’s where Google screwed up. They should have allowed people to apply to participate. That’s the highly successful strategy they used to launch Google Glass. It worked like a charm.
When Google introduced the beta version of Google Glass, they made people apply to spend $1500 for the chance to test the first version of Google Glass. You had to write an essay explaining how you would use them and how you’d share what you thought of them. Tens of thousands applied. Thousands crowed happily when they were selected to pay $1500 to be among the geekiest geeks on the planet. Google enjoyed massive amounts of earned media as a result.
I tried Google Glass. Wonderful idea, but they’re seriously not ready for prime time. Yet that didn’t stop people from wanting to be the first on their block to have a pair.
How to have them standing in line
Google should have made people apply to have their names, faces, and opinions shown in ads to Google’s enormous global audience. They could have called the people they picked “Google Tastemakers” or “Google Trendsetters” and people would have lined up in droves for the chance to be promoted by Google. Face it: many of us want the world to know who we are and what we think. Ask any blogger.
In a recent post, Seth Godin, whose wisdom I always respect, and almost always agree with, asks “Is Google jumping the shark?
“Great media companies fight back on all of these intrusions,” he wrote, “because they know that what actually works is genuine connection built around remarkable products and services. ”
But Google does have genuine connection built around remarkable products and services. Now the bill is due – and it’s a drop in the bucket.
Pay the piper
People who are angry that Google is making them opt out of being featured in advertising need to consider several points:
• Google search – the best search engine in the world – is free
• Gmail – with enormous functionality and huge storage capacity – is free
• GooglePlus is free and offers free Hangouts on Air which have all the functionality of expensive webinar platforms. And it seamlessly integrates with your YouTube channel, which is free, and which has free (rudimentary, but improving) editing software.
• Google Games, Google Wallet, Blogger, Google Analytics, Google Maps, Google Webmaster Tools, Google News, Google Images, Google Calendar, and many other platforms are free. No charge. Gratis.
While many may argue otherwise, information is not really free. Somebody has to pay for it. Google’s model is to have advertising pay for the Google platforms.
Get over it!
Personally, the only ad I’m likely to click on is one that features a friend of mine’s face and opinion. These new endorsements will only be visible to the people who you originally shared that activity with though; most content will therefore be restricted to a specific circle from Google+, although ratings and reviews posted on Google Play or Google+ Local will be visible to the wider public. So what’s the big deal, really?
People need to get over the idea that there’s nothing they’ll ever have to do to keep Google’s platforms free. And if they don’t want to be in the endorsements, they can just opt out. Now.
And, dear Google, you need to re-think your marketing strategy for future Terms of Service updates.