Last Saturday, Google updated its terms and services, announcing “shared endorsements”, a service that will showcase friends’ pictures and recommendations in Google Ad units, starting November 11. Quite obviously, the urban elite put up guides on opting out of the Face Ads, while the villagers picked up their pitchforks and cried out in anger. Seth Godin put up a post on his blog on why he believes Google might have just “Jumped the Shark” with Shared Endorsements.
I’ve been holding back because, hey, at the end of the day, we provide customer support. And this is a Marketing and SEM (Search Engine Monetization) problem. Right?
Apparently, not quite. A few weeks back, when Google announced its Hummingbird update, its implications to the world of customer service made me jump with joy. But when I read the story of Shared Endorsements, I practically shat my pants.
This little “event” in the life of Google, and every one of its users is something that consumers should be celebrating, not complaining. Okay Billy, put down your pitchfork before you hurt someone and read on. More than advertisers, marketers and businesses, the direction Google is taking right now is the greatest thing that could happen to us, the consumer. And this is why:
1. Customer experiences become marketing currency
The difference between a great product and a great product that your friend is willing to vouch for isn’t trivial. With Shared Endorsements, a promise to deliver great customer experiences isn’t just an abstract brand differentiator anymore – it’s marketing currency that feeds back into acquisition.
The Hummingbird algorithm showed that Google now cared more about “conversations” than keywords when users come searching. With Shared Endorsements, it goes even further, turning the spotlight on “Experiences”.
2. It’s not the Advertiser’s game – it’s yours
This one is the main reason I even decided to write this post. When I read some of the smartest marketers I know, like Seth Godin, talk about how Google’s Shared Experiences is pro-advertisers and anti-consumer, it’s like, I just want to…
If anything, showing you the opinions of friends you trust inside “ad real-estate” is the exact opposite of leaving the control button with advertisers. Shared Endorsements force businesses to build and share genuine customer experiences instead of advertising BS.
Google poetically strong-armed companies to invest in making customers sincerely happy. Last time I checked, that isn’t the definition of anti-consumers.
3. Customers are the new advertisers; Endorsements are the new ads
Customer perceptions and personal recommendations are beyond the realm of things SEO experts can stuff, or advertisers can shove. And that makes my recommendations about a brand a quantifiably valuable resource businesses must fight for.
If brands want to be able to put up your picture on their advertisements when your friends come searching, making you insanely happy becomes the key to their entire business process. And it’s not just about creating that “wow” moment. It’s about following it through to useful customer stories.
4. Your credibility is your responsibility
Shared Endorsements bring in a great deal of power to the consumer. And, like Peter Parker’s dying uncle said, that brings in its fair share of responsibility too. If I didn’t want the world to know what I like, where I buy it from, or why I love it, it isn’t very smart of me to put it up on social media, is it?
It’s easy to like a page on Facebook, or +1 it on Google Plus and show the world that we love the brand. But does that mean we would willingly refer the brand to a friend? And, if not, then why would we hit that like or +1 button in the first place?
But instead, if I wanted my thoughts, opinions and experiences to be useful to my friends and peers, I would proudly share, like, tweet and +1 my views. And be happy they came up in ads when my buddies are looking for help.
The bottom line – Customer Service IS the new marketing!
I know, there have been words about how customer service is the new marketing for quite a while. We’ve made educated guesses, spoken about how it’s important to cash on word of mouth. But the latest changes in Google’s Hummingbird and Shared Endorsements kind of seal the deal. It puts you and me in the center of how we perceive and consume information, make purchase decisions, or share experiences with the world. And that means the experience you offer your customers today – the way you tap into their feedback, opinions and their entire service lifecycle with you – that is your brand and marketing. And that’s big.
To us, that’s even bigger because the best way to wow customers is by delivering exceptional support experiences when they need it. Customers are the real product advocates and salesmen. The face, opinion and review of the individual consumer is now the center of the business, and the share of customer voice is the prize CMOs should get into boardroom battles to win. So the only question is, how do you let your customer service drive your marketing?