Last Friday, Google made headlines with its plans to literally sell existing user generated content to businesses. It seems like a perfect way to make money on the PR goldmine of reviews written by ordinary people—without even convincing them to become “brand advocates.”
Mark our words, though; it won’t go over well.
The idea is that Google’s algorithm will attach these personal reviews and the information about the people who posted them to ads for the products in question. Google, like Facebook before it, positions the change as a way to provide users with a more helpful and personalized service. The problem is that no one (or at least nearly no one) writes these reviews with the intention of promoting the product in this way.
It’s the same principle that led to the Instagram ad fiasco: we Internet users know that we’re sharing our opinions with the rest of the world, but we still don’t like having the information we shared (with no expectation of payment) used to help sell the things we like. And we especially don’t like the fact that anyone who sets eyes on these listings can see our headshots and glean basic information about us and our preferences at a glance. It’s a modern c0nundrum unique to our hyper-connected society.
We’re not sure the public response will be quite so dramatic in this case, but we have little doubt that many angry emails will be written. Google, taking Facebook’s failure to heart, has been explicit in informing readers about the opt-out option, but you know how people are.
It’s a brave new world, and Google’s messaging team has taken careful steps to avoid the problems faced by Facebook and Instagram. Given that Twitter also faces great pressure to make money as it goes public, we also expect the service to devise a way to draw revenue from tweeter’s brand and product recommendations (it currently allows companies to use tweets only with the sender’s permission).
Let’s sit back and see how this all unfolds—we can’t imagine it inspiring millions to sign up for Google+.
*Photo via Slashgear
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