Google hawks user endorsements to marketers

Following in the footsteps of LinkedIn and Facebook, Google is banking on user endorsements to marketers with its new ad feature on its +1 service, aiming to replicate the traditional word-of-mouth marketing effect on the digital sphere.

Last Friday, Google announced an update to its terms of service that now enables the search engine giant to include user names, photos and comments in ads shown across the Web. Slated to go live on 11 November 2013, the new ad policy allows Google to show “shared endorsements” on Google sites and online.

So, for example, if you search for “Italian restaurants,” you might see an ad for a nearby restaurant along with your friend’s favorable review. Or if a user gives an album four stars on the Google Play music service, his or her name, photo and endorsement would show up next to the albums.

Those under 18 will be automatically excluded from this service. Google also added that users will also have the chance to opt out of being included in the new endorsements and if a Google Plus user chooses to only share comments with a limited set of people, only people in that circle will see the personalised ads.

“Feedback from people you know can save you time and improve results for you and your friends across all Google services, including Search, Maps, Play and in advertising,” said Google in its announcement.

“If you previously told Google that you did not want your +1’s to appear in ads, then of course we’ll continue to respect that choice as a part of this updated setting.”

The new addition is said to be a competitor to Facebook’s “Like” button. Facebook has already been marketing its social endorsements on its site, without the option to opt out of such ads.

Facebook recently settled a lawsuit over the way it shared "likes" of advertisers in sponsored stories without actually getting users' permission. The social media giant had to fork out US$20 million to compensate members of the class action suit. The 614,000 users that responded received around US$15 each.