Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) wants to reinvent the "like" button, and there may be something in it for you if you play along.
In an intriguing patent application filed by the search giant two summers ago -- and unearthed by SEO by the Sea after it was published last week -- Google is hoping to land rights to an ad-centric form of the "like" button made popular by Facebook.
Deep in the description, Big G details how it can create a win-win-win situation by providing financial incentives for active social networking users to serve up advertiser testimonials.
Check it out:
Users of a social network may be provided with incentives to share their activities on third-party websites for the purpose of creating promotional information. For instance, a user may receive a portion of the revenue generated by the display of promotional information associated with the user (e.g., an advertisement regarding a recent purchase made by the user) on a social network. Additionally, a social network can receive revenue for displaying promotional information to its users.
In other words, just as Google's AdSense lets website publishers and bloggers in on revenue-sharing action for allowing the paid search juggernaut to syndicate its ads through cyberspace, an advertiser can pay Google -- which in turn pays both the poster and perhaps the social network itself -- if a successful lead is generated.
Affiliate marketing isn't a new concept. Amazon's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Associates and ValueClick's (Nasdaq: VCLK ) Commission Junction have been around since the 1990s. More recently, Groupon has become the ultimate champ of Web 2.0 affiliate marketing. You may think your Facebook friend is recommending a great deal to you, but that person also stands to gain referral bonuses if you use his or her link to buy into that Groupon deal.
In other words, what Google may be suggesting isn't groundbreaking -- with or without a patent. The only real challenge will be for Google to pull this off without being flogged for the commercialization of "word of mouth" buzz. According to the patent, an advertiser can single out the products and referral copy that will be posted on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or any other influential social site. What if it appears hokey or forced? If anyone can sniff out insincerity, it's a friend.
There is certainly potential in monetizing "like" buttons. As the world's leader in online advertising, Google would seem to be the logical party to make it work. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) may be the one with the minority stake in Facebook, but Google is the one with the thicker Rolodex of Web-based advertisers. Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) and SINA (Nasdaq: SINA ) are generating buzz over their social micro-blogging sites, but they're just starting to approach the monetization process.
We'll see how this plays out. It's promising, but Google's credibility can take a major hit if this blows up in its face.
Should Google monetize "like" buttons? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.