Dear Google: You made a huge mistake in the way you announced your new terms of service. The way you did it made people angry -- completely unnecessarily.
On Oct. 11 Google announced that, beginning Nov. 11, the company would be able to feature users' names and photos in what the company calls "shared endorsements" on Google sites and across the Internet, where more than 1 billion people view content on more than 2 million sites in Google's display advertising network.
The new rules allow Google to include adult users' names, photos, reviews, comments and recommendations in ads shown across the Web, based on ratings, reviews and posts they have made on Google Plus and other Google services like YouTube. However, "You can control whether your image and name appear in ads via the Shared Endorsements setting." That means you can opt out. Simply check a box that says you don't want your endorsements shared.
Unfortunately, according to researchers at the University of Nottingham, the new terms of service use more complex language than "Beowulf" or "War and Peace." Google, you see, isn't exactly great at explaining things.
It didn't position the latest change well, either. The company should have allowed people to apply to participate. That's the highly successful strategy it used to launch Google Glass. It worked like a charm.
When Google introduced the beta version of Google Glass, people had to apply to spend $1,500 for the chance to test the first version of Google Glass. You had to write an essay explaining how you would use the glasses and how you'd share what you thought of them. Tens of thousands applied. Thousands crowed happily when they were selected to pay $1,500 to be among the geekiest geeks on the planet.
I tried Google Glass. They're not ready for prime time. But that didn't stop people from wanting to be the first on their block to have a pair.
Google should have made people apply to have their names, faces and opinions shown in ads to Google's enormous global audience. They could have called the people they picked "Google Tastemakers" or "Google Trendsetters" and people would have lined up in droves for the chance to be promoted by Google. Face it: Many of us want the world to know who we are and what we think. Ask any blogger.
In a recent post, Seth Godin, whose wisdom I always respect and almost always agree with, asked, "Is Google jumping the shark?"
"Great media companies fight back on all of these intrusions," he wrote, "because they know that what actually works is genuine connection built around remarkable products and services."
But Google does have genuine connection built around remarkable products and services. Now it's suggesting to consumers that the bill is due. People who are angry that Google is making them opt out of being featured in advertising need to consider several points:
· Google search – the best search engine in the world – is free
· Gmail – with enormous functionality and huge storage capacity – is free
· GooglePlus is free and offers free Hangouts on Air which have all the functionality of expensive webinar platforms. And it seamlessly integrates with your YouTube channel, which is free, and which has free (rudimentary, but improving) editing software.
· Google Games, Google Wallet, Blogger, Google Analytics, Google Maps, Google Webmaster Tools, Google News, Google Images, Google Calendar, and many other platforms are free. No charge. Gratis.
While many may argue otherwise, information is not really free. Somebody has to pay for it. Google's model is to have advertising pay for the Google platforms.
Personally, the only ad I'm likely to click on is one that features a friend of mine's face and opinion. These new endorsements will only be visible to the people who you originally shared that activity with though; most content will therefore be restricted to a specific circle from Google+, although ratings and reviews posted on Google Play or Google+ Local will be visible to the wider public. So what's the big deal, really?
People need to get over the idea that there's nothing they'll ever have to do to keep Google's platforms free. And if they don't want to be in the endorsements, they can just opt out. Now.
And, dear Google, you need to re-think your marketing strategy for future Terms of Service updates.