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Why Supersizing Your Social Media Can Be a Bad Idea

It’s nice to be ahead of the curve. Just a couple of weeks ago we wrote how Google+ was in our humble opinion – not a sound choice for businesses as part of their digital strategies (see our entry of July 13 entitled The Social Network – How to Make Friends and Influence People). Now to validate our assessment of social media’s latest offering, Google has just revealed that it is in fact working on a Google+ experience specifically for businesses and is asking brands not to create Google+ profiles yet. Check out the YouTube video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8Hww4KUR1A

To quote Christian Oestlien, Google+ product manager: “Right now, we’re very much focused on optimizing for the consumer experience, but we have a great team of engineers building a similarly optimized business experience for Google+. It’ll include things like rich analytics and the ability to connect that identity to other parts of Google that businesses might use on a daily basis – like AdWords.”

As a result, Google is asking businesses to put their Google+ ambitions on hold. “How users communicate with each other is different from how they communicate with brands,” Oestlien reminds us.  “The business experience we are creating should far exceed the consumer profile in terms of its usefulness to businesses,” Oestlien says in his post. “We just ask for your patience while we build it. In the meantime, we are discouraging businesses from using regular profiles to connect with Google+ users.”

And if that’s not enough – for those agencies or businesses who jumped on the Google+ bandwagon without first understanding its user-based focus: “Our policy team will actively work with profile owners to shut down non-user profiles,” Oestlien warns.

While the Google+ experience for businesses won’t be ready until “later this year,” the company intends to launch a “small experiment with a few marketing partners” to test the brand-oriented accounts over the next few months. It even has opened up a Google Spreadsheet where “non-user entities” can apply for the program. However, it’s not clear how these accounts will be chosen or when non-user profiles will be closed.

What’s puzzling to us is not that Google is building a bespoke Google+ experience aimed at businesses, but that it appears that it was unprepared for the sheer number of brands prepared to ride the Google+ wave. ‘Often brands don’t even consult their agencies before joining a social networking site. Social media can be seen as something that can be handled in-house and which as a result, isn’t seen as something integral to the larger branding strategy,’ explains Dave Jabbie. ‘Brands are looking to go where the customers are and we can relate to that. However, what works for your customers may not be the right forum for your brand.’

And as businesses wait for their version of Google+, it’s hardly surprising that Facebook chooses this as the time to launch a new site which walks potential advertisers through the process of advertising and marketing on the social network.

The site, Facebook for Business, “provides step-by-step guidance for how to best use Facebook’s marketing tools” which include Pages, Ads, Deals, social plugins and sponsored stories.

Although Facebook is presently the social network of choice for many marketers, many have found the process of buying ads on the network complex, which in turned has spawned a growing band of third party agencies that specialize in placing ads on the network. With the site, Facebook hopes to offer more of a helping hand. “We want to inspire small businesses by seeing how other businesses have found success on Facebook by sharing their stories,” Facebook’s product manager says.

The new site is the latest effort by Facebook to court advertisers. In April, the company launched Facebook Studio, which showcases successful Facebook campaigns and gives awards for the best work.

‘Just a couple of years ago, many agencies were worried that the emerge of digital media meant their revenues would dry up as the emerging digital media outlets provided the means for advertisers to ‘cut out the middle man’ so to speak. However, more social and digital media choices means that brands require digital media savvy guidance more than ever,’ says Jabbie. ‘The rush to embrace Google+ without fully understanding its user base illustrates that. Far from being redundant, agencies are not only more relevant but can provide the kind of strategic and targeted media planning to make the scatter-gun approach of expensive press and television campaigns a thing of the past.’

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