I know what you are thinking. Yet another Google+ post about how great the social platform is and how it can kill Facebook. Well, hold on a minute and hear me out. Yes, I’ve been testing Google+ extensively over the past two weeks. Yes, I think Google did a fabulous job with its social platform. And yes, I think Facebook should be worried. Google+ can definitely pull users and usage away from Facebook, which can cause problems for the giant social network. But I’m not here to write about Google killing Facebook (or vice versa). I’m going to write about the unique advertising opportunities that are possible now that Google+ has arrived. No, the opportunities aren’t available yet (and the screenshot above isn’t real), but they could be, and soon. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time for digital marketers.
Since I started testing Google+, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Google could monetize Google+ via its AdWords platform. Google can do something advertising-wise that Facebook hasn’t been able to do (and probably won’t be able to do), which is close the loop between Search and Social. That’s an incredibly important point, and one that marketers should start thinking about now.
The Impact of Google+ on SEM and Social Advertising
Last week I wrote a blog post about the potential impact of Google+ on SEM and Social Advertising, which explained how Google could uniquely track users from Search to websites and then back to Social (via Google+). I explained how Google owns Search, but how users go off the AdWords grid when they hit Facebook. On the flip side, I explained that while Facebook has the largest social network in the world (750+ million members), it has almost no serious Search capabilities. That means it can’t target you while you search the web. Neither company could effectively close the loop between what people searched for and then what they were communicating with their family and friends.
Now that Google has hit the scene with Google+, and it’s outstanding, it has a serious opportunity to achieve a unique closed loop marketing platform. For marketers, this is incredibly important and provides enormous opportunities that weren’t present before Google+ arrived. Before we hop into possible examples of what this can look like, let’s explore “closing the loop” in greater detail.
The Power of Closing The Loop Between Search and Social
The AdWords platform generates ~97% of Google’s revenue. It’s an incredibly powerful advertising platform that spans Search (users searching on Google.com and its Search partners) and the Display Network (which includes Google-owned properties and sites running AdSense). When used properly, the Display Network can be very powerful. It enables marketers to target users outside of Search via contextual advertising and behavioral targeting. You can reach them when they search and then while they are browsing the web, which provides opportunity and reach.
In addition, the behavioral targeting capabilities in AdWords have grown in recent years. For example, you can now use remarketing to target users browsing the Display Network that were already on your website, that visited certain pages on your site, or users that didn’t convert. In addition, Google recently launched interest-based targeting, which enables marketers to target your browser and not just content that fits a certain theme. Yes, that means I can follow you around the web with advertising, based on your “interests”. So, Google can currently reach you in Search and then reach you when you visit sites across its Display Network. That’s powerful, but again, you pretty much go off the grid when you hit Facebook (and millions of people are on Facebook… all day long). Imagine if an advertiser could follow you from Search to the Display Network, then to a social network (cough, Google+), and then even back to Search. Well, that’s exactly what Google will be able to do if Google+ gains users at scale (which it’s already doing…)
How AdWords+ Can Close The Loop Between Search and Social
You can check out my post about AdWords+ to learn more about closing the loop between Search and Social. I just wanted to provide a little bit of background before we check out some potential examples of AdWords+. Let’s dive in.
6 Possible Examples of AdWords+ in Google+:
You better believe ads are coming to Google+, as the Search giant needs to show growth, and Google+ can potentially add a large amount of advertising inventory. That inventory could translate into billions of dollars of revenue for Google, which could provide the growth Wall Street is looking for. With business pages coming soon, mobile and local booming, and Search + Social now possible, let’s take a look at some potential advertising opportunities on the new social platform. Note, this is by no means an exhaustive list of possibilities. It’s simply meant to provide some AdWords+ opportunities that are probably coming our way (both as advertisers doing the targeting, and as consumers being targeted).
1. Remarketing on Google+
I mentioned remarketing earlier, and this is a no-brainer for current AdWords advertisers. Using remarketing with Google+, you could track someone from Search to your website, and then to Google+. Imagine knowing that someone added your latest dress pants to their shopping cart but never converted. As they hit Google+ to ask family and friends for recommendations, you could provide targeted advertising knowing they almost converted. Maybe you decide to provide users in this audience a 10% discount, or free shipping, etc. Remember, this special offer is only being presented to certain “audiences” you set up in AdWords (using remarketing). That’s powerful.
2. Search Directly to Google+
Similar to running ads in Facebook that direct users to your Facebook Page, you could run AdWords ads in Search (or across the Display Network) that drive users to your business profile on Google+. This can enable you to build a stronger following on the Social platform, provide special offers to those users, etc. In addition, you will know what they searched for before hitting Google+, which could present some interesting opportunities landing-page wise (in Google+). Maybe you’ll be able to drive them to one of several different offers or landing pages once they hit Google+. Maybe you can send certain segments of users directly to a page that lets them join a hangout, where you can video conference with them on the fly. (Hangouts are video calls in Google+ that support up to 10 users.) Hey, community managers and salespeople, are you ready for that? Only Google knows what’s coming on that front.
3. Social to Search
You got it, let’s reverse our mindset for a second. Google will know what you’re doing on Google+, what you have +1’d, what your updates are, etc. and then can present ads in Search, based on that data. That’s right, as you go back to Google.com to search for solutions (or if you search within Google+), you could be presented targeted ads based on your actions across the social platform. Imagine you just posted a few updates about an upcoming conference in your industry. When you hit Google.com and start searching, maybe ads for the conference show up (no matter what you are searching for). It’s a form of behavioral targeting, but in Search versus on the Display Network. And if you’re wondering about the privacy concerns of this type of targeting, I’ll briefly cover that later in the post. Yes, there are some serious privacy concerns and expect a tsunami of concern as we get closer to AdWords+.
4. Google+, Mobile, and Local
Google Offers is Google’s version of Groupon. When Google builds critical mass on Google+, it can easily connect its deals platform with AdWords+. Also, the Google+ mobile app is awesome. I envision deals being pushed to me, based on location and based on my activity on Google+. Add Google Wallet, which is Google’s tap and pay product (using NFC), and this can be huge. NFC is “near field communications” and it will enable you to tap your phone to pay at stores (via an NFC chip in your phone.) NFC just might put an end to your physical wallet. And when you combine Google+, Mobile, Local, and Offers, you have a four-headed monster in the space. A monster that roars deals, shares with friends, connects with your local community, and breathes money versus fire. Run for the hills!
5. Google+ Ads Based on Google Wallet Payment History
Building on the last bullet, imagine being able to remarket to consumers based on their payment history (and not just on their browsing history). Let’s say you know I just paid for a laser printer using Google Wallet. Advertisers might be able to market other products or services to me, based on that transaction (like ink, digital cameras, other devices, etc.) This opens a world of opportunity for marketers, but scares me to death as a consumer. Did I mention privacy concerns earlier?
6. Social Ads and Targeting Circles
Sponsored stories have been very successful for Facebook, which are sponsored news feed items (ads) that show up based on the actions your friends have taken on Facebook (page likes, page posts, check-ins, etc.) I’m sure Google has been watching this ad format closely, so expect new AdWords+ formats to show up that leverage Social in similar ways. For example, there may be opportunities to selectively sponsor updates and have those updates go out to specific circles in Google+ (which are groupings of friends).
For example, imagine you follow Zappos on Google+, you +1 their business page, click an offer on Google+, and then buy a new pair of shoes based on that offer. By connecting those actions, and by using social ads in Google+, maybe Zappos “sponsors” an update that gets pushed to some of your circles. Of course, this is only if you gave Zappos or Google+ the power to do so. Note, with Google+, these messages could also show up in Search (based on activity in Google+). Maybe your social connections can see what you just bought from Zappos in Search. It’s basically an advanced form of social annotations in Search (just with more information attached).
In addition, you might have the ability to target types of circles, based on the profiles of people in those circles, or based on updates occurring in those circles. Circles could become segmented lists that can be targeted by advertisers. Yes, by creating circles, you could be helping AdWords+ provide more targeted advertising opportunities for marketers. That’s brilliant, since most people have been focusing on how great it is for controlling privacy and friend lists (which it is). But, it’s also naturally segmenting audiences for advertising purposes.
I’ve already mentioned privacy a few times, and I couldn’t end this post without addressing the elephant in the room. You know, the elephant frantically trying to delete its search history. :) The social advertising opportunities with Google+ bring up serious privacy concerns. Like Facebook, there are already many people uncomfortable with how much information Google knows about them. Google knows a lot about you, including what you search for, sites you visits, where you are located, where you go, etc. Facebook knows your friends, family, the brands you like, the places you check in, what you are doing, etc. But Google+ could uniquely combine search and social data to create a hyper-personalized profile. I’m sure excited as an advertiser, but pretty darn concerned as a consumer.
Like anything else in this world, it will need to work itself out. New formats will launch, backlash will occur, the media will write countless articles about it, the concern will subside, only for the process to begin again. That’s until my TV, phone, microwave, and shirt know more about me than my own family. Well, by that point, at least my shirt will be able to offer me a discount.