By Paul Armstrong, Mindshare, November 2011
Google is now allowing brands to have official pages on its much hyped Google+ social network. Google+ Pages enables brands to have brand hub for the site’s 40m plus unique users. However, Google has laid down the gauntlet with Facebook by integrating these “+Pages” into its suite of products thus adding significant incremental reach as well as substantial brand exposure in places like Google search and YouTube. Details
For the most part business pages on Google+ look very similar to an individual page, although business +Pages are identified with a new box logo to the right of the page title. Other features include:
- Enhanced interface with photos and videos, a new +1 button, follower count, and brand “posts”.
- Google+ icons and badges to gain followers.
- Ability to use +1 to recommend brands not just ads or sites.
- Use of Circles to create customer segments and bespoke messaging.
- Use of Hangouts to create face-to-face chats.
Google also introduced “Direct Connect” to help business pages gain followers and be found in general; it’s an important and necessary point as business pages will not be allowed to follow people unless they are followed first. When a user searches for a brand/business and adds a “+” to the query (e.g., “+Ford”) they will go directly to the brand’s Google+ profile and follow it; a smart tactical move against vanity URLs that keeps people using search where Google makes the vast majority of its revenues. Brands that currently have profiles on the site include: Pepsi, CNN, Fox News, the Muppets, the Dallas Cowboys, Toyota, Macy’s, X Games, WWE, Train, Barcelona Football Club and Save the Children. Implications
Google+ Pages has huge implications for both big and small businesses given its integration with multiple Google products (search, YouTube, Google Docs), which is a strong differentiator to Facebook and its limited integration with Microsoft. Consequently, this is not a question of Facebook versus Google+ but rather Facebook versus the entire Google product range.
Direct Connect has clear implications for both search budgets and advertising. It’s possible to see a day when the first stop after searching could be the Google+ business page as every interaction on Google+ makes the whole Google system smarter. In essence, Google+ Pages creates a new proxy destination for digital adverts and billboards, albeit dependent on people adopting it and promoting it above and below the line.
There are also clear cost implications for brands; from a community management perspective there is now another platform to update and monitor. In addition, without an API there are few shortcuts currently available to enable efficient posting. However, unlike Facebook Fan Page walls users can’t actually post on the +Page. Furthermore, categorizing and managing Circle followers is a manual rather than automated task. Similar to Facebook expect Google and/or other industry suppliers to devise a solution soon (e.g., Buddy Media).
Finally, a key differentiator from Facebook is the current lack of Google+ advertising to monetize brand pages, i.e., there is no way to buy fans other than external display advertising and reliance on Google +’s search integration. However, given Google’s marketing acumen this may change soon. Summary
Google+ has quickly gained traction amongst the early adopter communities. Google+ should continue to scale now that they have opened to the public and to businesses. Whilst many will see this as a clear and direct competitor to Facebook Pages, it’s still very early days and Google+ needs a lot more functionality to fully compete with Facebook. However, Google+’s integration with search and other products is a key differentiator to other competitors and may in time build momentum. Brands should ignore +Pages at their own peril as Google should never be underestimated in their ability to use their hefty bank account and dominance in search to dig in for a long-term battle with Facebook.