+Post Ads: Cool Update or Sneaky Google+ Promotion?

Yesterday morning Google announced a new ad format called +Post ads that pulls Google+ posts from brands and applies them to the Google network. To quote the production manager:

+Post ads allow a brand to take a piece of their public Google+ content, like a photo, video or even a Hangout, and with a few clicks, turn it into a display ad that can run across the more than 2 million sites in the Google Display Network. This lets brands think of the entire web as their social stream.

The most common comparison of +Posts from the around the Internet is to Facebook stories. Instead of creating an ad, some marketers prefer to highlight the content from their Page. The sponsored story on the side of Facebook is a recent status update by the paying brand. Google will now do the same thing, except instead of advertising just on Google+ they’ll share the post all over the Internet.

For users, this means that ads they see will be social media quality. Brands can fight banner blindness with cute, funny, or interesting content. Users won’t be stuck with bland pitches from the highest bidder and will see relevant content that entertains or informs them instead.

Of course, while marketers and SEOs are pointing to their screens yelling, “See? This is what I’ve been saying the whole time! It’s all about quality content!” we should also take a moment to admit that this is yet another attempt by Google to make Google+ popular.

Marketers that don’t already have their brands on Google+ will join and/or start posting regularly to keep their ads fresh. What’s the point of having a content-based ad campaign if the content was randomly published by an intern three months ago? Brands will have to move their Google+ strategy up the priority list to make sure the posts shared through the Google network are interesting to their target audiences. Everybody wins when brands increase the creativity of their social media posts.

As Internet users start seeing and engaging with +Post ads they’ll become familiar with the Google+ interface. It will slowly become part of their day-to-day lives. One of the most common excuses for not joining a social network (right behind, “I’m on too many already”) is that it’s confusing. Reddit and Tumblr are the two main networks that elicit this response. The more familiar users are with the Google+ interface then the more likely they are to join.

Does this sound familiar? This is a similar strategy to Google requiring YouTube users to have a Google+ account to post comments. Yes they wanted to prevent trolling and cyber-bullying with real-life profiles, but they also enjoyed a major uptick in Google+ sign-ups. The more YouTube users interacted with Google+ linked comments then the more likely they are to start posting right to the social network. It’s the same tune, just different lyrics.

Google, we get it. We know you want us to start using Google+. We know that you’re going to keep giving marketers “cool opportunities” or making “interface changes” to sites that we love until we sign up and use it daily. At the rate that Google+ is integrating into all aspects of Google, users won’t even be able to hit the refresh button without announcing the move to their circles.

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Amanda Dodge