Google announced a terms and service update in early October 2013 that will allow the search giant to use the names and photos of its users in product advertisements. In keeping pace with Facebook’s use of “sponsored stories,” Google’s “shared endorsements” will take user-generated ratings and reviews and tie them to ads displayed on the Web. The company announced that the change will begin in November and that users will be able to opt out of the service.

Where Do Endorsements Come From?
According to the New York Times, Google users can rate and review services on the company’s social media site, Google Plus, and on other Google-owned sites like YouTube. Google can then use those ratings and reviews to enhance advertisements for specific products the company already displays.

So, if John Doe positively reviews a new smartphone on his Google Plus account, Google can take his profile photo and his review and place that next to a sponsored ad that anyone can see in a Google search for smartphones.

The Times notes that any user will have the option of removing himself or herself from the service. In addition, Google will automatically refrain from using information about users who are under the age of 18 and will display ads only in a manner that coincides with other privacy settings. So, if Doe decides only to share his smartphone endorsement with friends and family on Google Plus, then only those friends and family members will see Doe’s information in a targeted ad.

Working the Emotional Angle
The NYT says the allure of “shared endorsements” is that it replicates word-of-mouth marketing on a larger scale. TechCrunch expands upon this idea, explaining the process of opting out of the service. Users who opt out will see a Google message that says, “your friends will be less likely to benefit from your recommendations.” So, even if Doe wants only family members to see his recommendations, Google knows the power that such social pull holds.

Google and others are attempting to capitalize on word-of-mouth recommendations, or at least the reasonable facsimile they can generate with online ads. This move by Google could begin a new wave of marketing, but the search giant will also be charged with not creeping out its customers in the process. That said, it is an arguably responsible move that Google allows its patrons to opt out. If you are a Google user, will you choose to opt out or remain in the loop?


Image courtesy of Flickr

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