The other morning I was reading the Washington Post (yes, I subscribe to and read the paper almost every day) and noticed the headline “Google will put users into online ads.” Hm. Apparently Google plans to go the way of Facebook’s “sponsored stories,” putting users’ comments and photos into online ads for products and services that users have previously +1’d or commented on. Google somehow thinks that these “shared endorsements” will help consumers make “better choices.”
I’m pretty sure the choice that people will make is to use Google+ even less than they’re using it now, which is the exact opposite of what Google wants. Why Google+? Because Google says this new ad policy will apply only to Google+ users.
Why Google could possibly think this is a good idea is a mystery to me. If you use Google+ it feels like a ghost town. Yet Google continues to talk about how many people are using it and what a big success it is. There are lots of contradictory reports of its success, but the fact remains that it’s definitely no Facebook killer (sadly). But this idea of exploiting users and selling them out to advertisers is absolutely not a good idea. Doesn’t Google remember what happened when Instagram announced a similar program? Or Facebook’s ongoing legal battles over Sponsored Stories? Users don’t like being used. Period. So why risk losing users when your platform’s already not being used by that many? Well, money, I guess, but seriously–I think it’s a horrible idea on Google’s part and I personally will be disabling that feature, not +1-ing anything and possibly deleting my Google+ profile.
Here’s the thing. As much as I hate Facebook, I use it, as do most people. People are on Facebook–their friends and families and colleagues are there, their photos are there, brands are there. Even when you want to make a big statement and quit Facebook, you’re kind of hard-pressed to actually hit the “delete profile” button when push comes to shove. Google+? What’s keeping people there? Nothing, at least from my personal standpoint. Sure, it has some new photo editing features–that I don’t use. Sure, ostensibly millions of people are using it–I still barely use it and anyone I’m connected to there I’m also connected to on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Sure it has its horribly non-user-friendly, glitch-ridden Hangout feature–have you ever participated in a Hangout in which at least one participant didn’t get repeatedly knocked off or in which the quality of the video wasn’t worse than the crappiest web-cam? In other words, there’s nothing about Google+ that will keep users tethered to it and using it despite their objections to their likenesses and comments used in ads–they’ll simply delete their accounts.
I’d be shocked if Google doesn’t do an Instagram-like about-face and nix this crappy new idea. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about this feature in Google+ and where you can go to disable it.