Google has finally launched its Google+ business pages, allowing brands and businesses to join its social network. Many people have been looking forward to this, ever since Google banned companies from setting up Google+ profiles, letting people know that it’s only for personal users. They have been hinting about what they’re going to roll out for brands for quite a while now, and finally it is here.
Though somewhat similar to Facebook fan pages, the Google+ counterpart does have some additional nifty features that brands may like. One of the most promising is, of course, the integration of Google+ brand pages with the Google search engine. Having a brand page with Google+ will definitely help brands and businesses rank better in search. There is also a new feature called Direct Connect, which allows anyone using the Google search engine to jump straight to a Google+ brand page simply by searching for “+name of brand.”
This latest feature is still in beta phase, however, and won’t work for every Google+ that has been set up. Right now, there are certain criteria that determine a page’s eligibility for Direct Connect, which is mostly based on how popular it is with people through the number of searches for the brand and other social signals.
Other useful features that Google+ brand pages have that Facebook fan pages don’t include the Hangouts video chat service and the Circles feature. With Hangouts, brands can actually chat with their customers – this could be useful for doing promotions, offering deals, engaging customers in conversation, and even giving them customer support that’s personal and interactive. Since brands have the ability to deliver video and IM via the Google+ platform, they can offer unique content broadcasts to targeted consumers, which can be very helpful for the business.
And with Circles, similar to how personal users are using it, brands can create groups of users whom they can target specifically for special deals, promotions, events, and many more. Unlike Facebook, where businesses simply post to their page and hope that everyone who would like to see would be able to, with Circles, brands can target their communication based on what you know about these particular set of customers. Though it may sound tricky at first, once a brand is able to manage their Circles well, they can really give consumers what they want to see.
And there’s the +1 feature of Google+, which is somewhat similar to Facebook’s Likes, with the main difference is the fact that the +1 has Google juice. Google seems to plan to utilize this for its search engine, so that users will be able to see the most popular content – aka, the one with the most number of +1s – so that it can stand out among the rest.
Generally, however, many people are still speculating whether Google+ can become the giant that Facebook is today for brands and businesses. Though Google+ reports that it has over 40 million users now, the main question is, are these users interacting with brands through the platform? A recent report by BrightEdge, an SEO firm, discovered that although 61 percent of the world’s top 100 brands have created a Google+ page, most of them don’t really have a huge following yet, and fans aren’t doing a lot of brand interaction within the site as well.
Of course, remember that Google+ brand pages have only recently come out, so it’s not a surprise that they’re still struggling to establish themselves in this world of social networking sites. It would definitely be interesting to see what they come up with in the future, as they push out more features that would help brands connect and engage better with their consumers.
The main challenge for brands is convincing their customers to connect with them through this excellent platform. As Google+ continues to provide more value to its users, brands also need to determine what experiences they can offer through the site that’s different from other pages they have established.
Many predict that Google+ will continue to put out more features that will prove to be invaluable to brands and businesses later on. An integration with Google Analytics, for example, would definitely be an excellent feature, since right now, Google+ brand pages don’t have any way of determining the success of their campaigns.
The truth is, Google+ can still learn a lot from Facebook, but if it really wants to succeed in competing with the giant, it really needs to offer brands and users something different and more innovative than what Facebook has to offer.