Dear Google, selling user endorsements is just plain wrong

I know social networks are doing everything they can to generate revenue out of unsuspecting social networkers, but selling user endorsements just seems so wrong for so many reasons.

Whilst it was good of ‘do no evil’ Google to let users know in advance (it kicks off 11/11) they were going to be selling their endorsements, it doesn’t forgive the big Err for the user. There is also a nagging question around quality for the advertiser.

Let’s just look at this in some detail.

You are a Google Plus user, one of only 390 million on Google Plus who are going to be recruited to Google’s ant farm, harvesting content that they are going to be financially benefiting from. You, however, are not getting a cent. Not one scrap of your content, your time taken to review or comment on a product or service will benefit you.

Google want you to be their free sales team, an army of endorsers, while they sell the benefits of a codified system of user recommendations to advertisers. It is a strong sell, a rating or review on a page, generally converts to a sale 75% higher than the same product without a rating or review. Google is selling to advertisers a higher propensity for conversions based on peer-to-peer lead generation.

Google is attempting to seduce the user into the friendly, cuddly world of Google – “We are helping you and your friends.”

“We want to give you and your friends and connections the most useful information. Recommendations from people you know can really help,” the company said in its announcement.

Google went on to talk about saving time, sharing and caring about helping your friends get better search results. Excuse me while I make a puking sign as I digest this fluff.

Total rubbish. Google want to use all your information, photos, profiles, content, and that of your friends to provide a sales endorsement to advertisers who are giving them cash. While you get nix, nothing, zip.

You can bet it won’t stop at Google Plus users either. It is as bad as the model of social advertising that Facebook launched, and their sponsored stories ad model.

This use of ratings and reviews en masse, doesn’t lend itself to quality advocacy for brands. It is another internet advertising smokescreen to turn a dollar that users will end up taking no notice of.

True customer advocacy works, but it is a skill and it is not cheap to use psychological profiling techniques to find your true advocates. They will account for 6-10% of your customer database only and will have a certain DNA. Their underlying attitudes to your brand will be complicit in their ability to generate quality word-of-mouth referrals, generating serious revenue into your business.

Advocacy programs of this standard based on quantitative and qualitative behavioural information, deliver sales from customers at a low cost per acquisition with a high LTV. It takes time and investment, but the ROI is impressive.

Yet the thing is everyone is looking for a quick fix in social media. Brands blast bloggers, they blast emails, blast promoted tweets, blast Facebook buy likes, and now using Google they can attempt to blast poor quality endorsements that are not qualified nor user permission based.

Taking time and engaging customer advocacy and true endorsement seems an anomaly to many brands that just pay lip service to customer engagement and now to customer feedback.

If you don’t want your feedback used by Google for their financial benefit and plastered over brands, products and services you can opt out here.

Fi Bendall is the managing director of Bendalls Group, a team of highly trained digital specialists, i-media subject matter experts and developers.


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