Is Google Getting Serious About Social Monetization?

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DM CONFIDENTIAL – Almost 10 months ago, in July 2011, Google started testing a new ad format. It was a marked departure from their traditional three lines of text. With its small image, it looked almost Facebook-like in appearance. With its small image, large border, and traditional amount of text, it also took up a large amount of real estate. These ads also featured something other ads didn’t — an “x” whereby a user could close the ad. When we first saw the ad, we clicked the “x,” not expecting it to be functional, because in our space they never are. This ad actually was, and for a minute we were worried that we wouldn’t find one again.

For those who might not use Gmail and/or didn’t see the ad, it looked like this:

 

Above the new expanded ad were action buttons for the commands “Save to Inbox,” “Forward” and “Dismiss.”

When we wrote about this last July, we said it was going to be huge, saying, “As impressive as this is for Gmail, just imagine what happens when put in a Google+ environment. We had been trying to think of how the company was going to not only monetize the platform but do so in a way that went beyond the standard blue-and-black three-line text ads. Now we know. This is big and bold. Definitely not the Google we are used to seeing.”

Today, almost 10 months later, we caught our first glimpse of how the Google+ integration actually looks. Instead of being an experiment within Google, it was an ad embedded on Google’s search page.

Super interesting in this scenario is that the company’s, in this case Delta’s, regular sponsored ad also appears. The right third of the screen has been dedicated to their Google+ page. Similar to other Google search integrations, such as where you can +1 individual results in the engine, this allows you to interact with the unit by “Follow”ing the company without leaving the confines of the search environment.

Clicking on the link takes you within Delta’s Google+ page.

Equally fascinating, as the unit pulls in the most recent post from the company, in this case that meant pulling in a link that goes to the company’s site that Google does not get to charge them for. We aren’t close enough to Google to get a comment quickly, but from our limited research, it’s certainly not an actual product yet that can be selected through AdWords. It’s very possible, that like Google Maps, this could be an extension of organic. It’s hard to see it as an ad unit over time, one that could charge on an engagement level and not just per click. Equally believable is that it could never become a true ad unit. It might just be space dedicated to brands that have a Google+ page. That seems to be the case now, as a search for United Airlines, which does not have a Google+ page, returns standard text-based search ads.

Knowing Google, though, there will be a way to monetize and roll it out on a broader scale if they aren’t doing so already. The other thing we know for sure is that they’ve created even more work for the rest of us to do. What a good time to be a social media service provider.

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