Google+ Pages and its place in the social inbox

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Google has finally unveiled Pages for Google+, allowing organisations and brands to join the social network and let their followers engage with them.

When the internet giant first launched Google+, brands immediately jumped at the opportunity to gain additional exposure, but unfortunately, Google prevented these companies from creating profiles for business use.

Offering an advertorial-free zone to mingle online may have seemed like reasonable strategy at the time for G+ to help differentiate itself. This initial decision to champion an ecommerce-sterile platform, however, quickly became controversial enough to force Google’s hand in accepting and accelerating plans for business pages.

In the hope that the presence of big brands would spur the cascading social media migration streak that dreams are made of, it was always just going be a matter of time before Google officially launched the Pages product.

While Google is now welcoming business into its social network, companies will still be unable to advertise directly on Google+ as they can with other competitors in the space, jerking tears from marketers everywhere.

After all: Social media isn’t just about connecting people with people, or businesses with people, now is it? It’s also about selling them stuff.

As the Google+ Pages and policies exist now, users are faced with various challenges when it comes to driving promotions through the platform. One such challenge for companies is that Pages can’t add users to their circles until users have added the page – which should cut down on spam, but leaves brands in reactive mode where community growth is left largely up to consumer initiative. This means that big businesses with profiles on other social networks can expect a relatively faithful transference of followers. That said, smaller business entering social media with little or no fan-base can expect to be left out of the loop when new users set up their circles.

Another such challenge is that Pages does not currently support standard e-marketing integrations, such as the ability to embed email and mobile newsletter sign up forms onto the page’s interface (as is done through the iFrame application on Facebook, for example).

Contact list building and lead generation is hampered as Google+ doesn’t plan to let brands run promotions. Its content policy bans direct hosting of contests, sweepstakes, offers and coupons, which are the essential tools in anyone’s marketing drawer. Posting a link to a promotion page is still fair game, but the policy could disappoint anyone who had envisioned using Google+ for these without building a separate page.

The process is more complicated, but after all, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to garner email sign-ups. Even better, this can only force people to push newsletters with more relevant call outs to the people receiving them.

Let’s face it; at first glance the Google+ platform, as a part of any multi-channel advertising campaign, does not have very much to offer anyone looking to run a campaign.

As Google+ is not pro push-marketing (from an advertorial point of view) this immediately qualifies it as a secondary social media channel. And this is why it will only be successful if used in conjunction with other marketing tools.

2011 has been termed “The Integration Economy” as social media is integrated with other channels and more frequently used for business purposes.

Social websites have gained momentous popularity and have fundamentally shifted the way people communicate, while giving companies wider exposure and a more authentic approach to personal one-to-one conversation. Email too — as a traditional online channel, with its ability to reach highly targeted groups of people — has melded comfortably with social. As the times change and new technologies emerge, it continues to show immeasurable success for businesses.

These two platforms pose very different advantages, and instead of causing interference, are often being used as a means to energise each other.

The inbox has become even more social and the increased gradient of social content sharing as well as the dominance of social data metrics from Facebook and Twitter, Google+ (though young) has highlighted the importance of socially optimised email campaigns even more.

With the social-email partnerships, the strict promotional rules on Google+ do necessarily spell advertorial doom. With Google+ brand Pages, emails now have even more potential to be easily shared. Gmail users will see a drop-down menu that allows them to view their Google+ profile and use all its diverse features – even sharing any piece of content straight from the email inbox.

By allowing users to push content to specific Google+ circles occupied by individuals with similar interests, Google+ enables email recipients to do personalised targeting for business promotions. For instance, when one receives an email related to one’s own industry, one can choose to share it just with professional associates.

The power of +1

Footer-level +1 buttons sewn into HTML newsletters will give them more search engine clout when shared socially. People are already including social media sharing links in their newsletters and emails, and it is obvious to see and quantify how promotions spread through the pathways of social media.

Taken in conjunction with Google’s +1 sharing button, Google+ Pages serve as an anchor for a brand’s identity on Google. The number of +1s a piece content receives can impact its search quality score. Google+ pages can be integrated into Google’s search hence bulking up your domain authority for organic search.

In the long run, Pages will bring new flavours to the platform by allowing consumers to build relationships with all the things they care about, from local establishments to global brands, and consequently allow companies to leverage the social network as a channel for trade — if approached correctly. Circles, for example, arguably one of the most popular features on Google+, makes perfect sense for businesses who already have fan-base in place — with the ability to segment customers, helping them to share relevant content to specific audiences, and also helping them to further group Google+ followers who are already signed up to their mailing list.

Even with these benefits Google+ won’t replace other social spaces any time in the near future, however, it should still be part a of every marketer’s overall multi-channel media strategy and can be enhanced when partnered with email marketing efforts.

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