An interesting follow up to yesterday's huge announcement that Google Plus for businesses and brands had finally opened: Google Plus doesn't want your contests. That's right, according to TechCrunch, there's explicit language in the Google Plus Pages terms of service prohibiting businesses from running contests, promotions, sweepstakes, offers, or coupons.
No Contests Allowed on Google Plus Business Pages
Here's the portion of the terms of service that mentions the issue:
You release Google from any liability associated with your Promotion and you agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Google, its parent corporation, affiliates, officers, directors, employees and agents, from and against any and all claims, damages, obligations, losses, liabilities, costs or debt, and expenses (including but not limited to attorney's fees) arising from: (i) your use of and access to Google+ Pages for your Promotion; (ii) your violation of any term of these policies; (iii) any violation within your Promotion of any third party right, including without limitation any copyright, property, or privacy right; (iv) any claim from any third party relating to or arising from your Promotion; or (v) any claim that your Promotion violates any law, rule or regulation. This defense and indemnification obligation will survive the termination of the service, changes to these policies and your use of Google+ Pages.
It's possible this is just a feature they're not ready for just yet. Maybe they need more time to get ready for the kind of activity contests would bring to the Google Plus network. TechCrunch suggests maybe they're gearing up to fight spam or handle overloaded servers.
Of course, it's also possible this is another interesting line in the sand from Google Plus. They took some fire early on for their strict policy on using real names instead of aliases. Maybe this is another similar decision, and a way for Google Plus to differentiate itself from Facebook?
After all, it didn't really take much time for Facebook's business pages to get to a point where "liking" a page became a requirement to participate in some kind of contest. It's kind of annoying sometimes, to be honest. Perhaps Google Plus feels the same way. By disallowing contests and sweepstakes, does Google Plus hope to make relationships between individuals and businesses more authentic and less gamed? If so, then I'm completely on board with this idea for now.
Obviously, businesses are going to want to use Google Plus for marketing and promotion. And Google knows this. But I'm guessing they're going to be taking baby steps as they ease into that world, to keep the same devaluation of relationships that went on at Facebook from happening to them.
Don't forget, also, that Google Plus will be a huge signal tool for Google search. As social activity (likes, plus ones, etc.) becomes more a part of how sites are ranked, don't think Google won't be leaning pretty heavily on the data they get from their own social network. So in a sense… if they can somehow keep that business-to-consumer relationship real (not staged just to participate in a contest), then their data on which brands and businesses are truly the most useful and helpful will be more accurate.
It appears Google is even considering removing or punishing any business pages that violate this rule, so proceed with caution. Contests are extremely popular with video marketers, but it looks like most of us will need to find another way to engage and interact with fans and customers.
My guess is that Google Plus will allow contests at some point, but that it will be a highly controlled environment–more like a contests widget created by Google or something.