Plus-size me! Google+ opens for business.
The wait is finally over for brands with Google+ finally launching Pages for businesses to join their social media network (as well as apologising for kicking them off in the first place).
Google+ now offers a social networking service for brands prompting thousands of businesses to set up profiles. However, to optimise brand exposure, businesses need to understand what differentiates Google+ from its competitors and tap into its full potential.
Already thousands of businesses have signed up for Google+ Pages -so what sets it apart from arch-rival Facebook?
Pages are similar to profiles you find on Facebook and also the personal profiles you find on Google+, allowing users to engage with a company or brand in just the same way as they do with anyone who users the network. Where the difference between Pages and Facebook starts to become apparent is that Pages can add potential customers to various circles and start to communicate with them in a segmented way. However, Pages cannot add people to circles until they themselves have been added first. The default privacy setting for Pages is set to ‘public’ although posts can be made private if required. Pages cannot play games, ‘+1’ other Pages or take part in a video or hang out on a mobile device.
When it comes to brand engagement however, Pages may offer companies a key advantage over rival Facebook.
“For you and me, this means we can now hang out live with the local bike shop, or discuss our wardrobe with a favourite clothing line, or follow a band on tour. Google+ Pages give life to everything we find in the real world,” said Google engineering chief Vic Gundotra in a blog post. “And by adding them to circles, we can create lasting bonds with the pages (and people) that matter most.”
However, there may be some teething problems with Pages which may need to be addressed in subsequent versions. For example, social media administrators may find it frustrating that Pages currently do not provide activity notifications via email, text or the Google bar. However, businesses have the option of adding a Google+ badge to their sites which allows people to add its page to their circles without leaving the site.
Although the Pages interface looks similar to Facebook, the most obvious advantage Pages has is its integration with Google search, providing brands with exposure to a search base allowing access to reportedly over 50% of global websites. Also, Pages will enable brands to streamline their social media content across multiple platforms including Android, Google Chrome and YouTube. This could offer exciting opportunities for brands to improve their audience engagement and explore innovative ways to create and distribute marketing content.
To make its service even more appealing to brands, Google+ has launched its Direct Connect feature, which makes it simple for users to find and follow brands on Google+ by just typing a “+” sign in front of the brand name when doing a Google search. Another step towards strengthening the integration with Google’s search engine is the brand verification procedure at the initial registration stage. As Google+ permits the registration of multiple users with one brand name, it allows organisations to appear at the top of the search results by verifying their brand identity and linking their profiles to the company website.
As Google+ is looking to further integrate with the rest of Google’s products, the appearance of the website and its features are going to change. Recently at the CrushIQ conference, Google made the announcement that they were planning to integrate Google+ with AdWords and enable multiple administrators to handle the brand pages on the website. They will also be able to tap into Google+ features such as Circles and Hangouts enabling them to segment their Google+ followers and create targeted brand engagement and niche marketing campaigns.
However, as more social networking platforms emerge almost on a daily basis a leading question is how many social media profiles can social media managers handle yet alone be relevant to their brands’ requirements? With just 40 million users worldwide Google+ still lags far behind Facebook and Twitter in terms of popularity among brands and consumers, but let’s not for one moment forget that the others have a considerable head-start. ‘Social media users are notoriously fickle,’ Brownstone’s Jabbie reminds us. ‘Look at the mass migration that occurred when millions of users jumped from MySpace to Facebook. The same could easily happen with Google+ if the network is suddenly perceived as being more ‘cool’. Brands have to keep brand experience as their priority, not the means they use to engage with their customers. At present, Pages is still somewhat restrictive with Google promising more innovations to come. .However, with Google+ the ability to integrate with other Google products makes it a seriously innovative and adaptable social media platform –however, I don’t think Mark Zuckerberg is going to be losing any sleep just yet.’