Google opens the floodgates for new 'social' ads

Participating businesses can now distribute their Google+ posts across the Web

Internet users may soon start to see more ads that look like posts from Google+, but without visiting the social network.

Google is opening its new "+Post ads" to advertisers meeting certain requirements, marking general availability of the program, which had been in testing mode.

The social ads work differently than the sponsored content traditionally sandwiched between posts from friends on sites like Facebook or Twitter. Instead of plopping the ad into Google+ streams, Google will run it across the Web on its ad display network, which may include news sites, blogs or other pages, allowing brands to reach a larger audience.

The ads will come from posts on businesses' Google+ channels that will be turned into Google "engagement ads," paid for by businesses based on the activity they generate. The idea is that fans or customers will engage with the ads in the same ways they do with content on social sites, such as by commenting on posts or giving it the "+" mark, Google's version of the "like."

"It makes the entire Web our social platform," said Dylan Schwartz, creative director at ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, in a promo video for the program.

Photos will likely be a big part of the ads, but Google also said it is letting advertisers promote broadcasts using Hangouts On Air, which will let users interact with the ad before, during and after a broadcast.

Toyota USA, the apparel company prAna, and Ogilvy Brussels, among others, have tested the program.

Whether Google's +Post ads will generate much interaction from Internet users at large is another question. Google has faced challenges in generating activity on its social network compared to sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Because the ads will not appear on Google+, they may not drive much traffic to Google's main social network.

To participate, businesses must meet requirements, including having at least 1,000 followers at Google+.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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