Google didn’t surprise anyone with the launch of Pages for Google+. It was just a matter of time before the internet-giant officially launched the product after experimenting with Ford Motors a few months ago.
Google VP and head of the Google+ Project, Vic Gundotra, explained the move on the company’s official blog: “After all, behind every page (or storefront, or four-door sedan) is a passionate group of individuals, and we think you should able to connect with them too.”
Pages looks a lot like Facebook’s product but if we compare the design aspects of the two, then Google+ Pages falls really short, especially when you consider the ecommerce aspect that businesses are starting to take advantage of.
What we need to consider though, is the way in which Google launches new products: The initial product offering is iterated upon often based on user feedback and this allows it to evolve very quickly.
At the moment, sentiment has arisen that the user account management of Google+ Pages is sub-optimal as well as there being no access to API tools, although it has been mentioned that multiple admin support is in the pipeline. API usage will obviously change as Google allowed access to the Hangouts API in September. The Black Eyed Peas have been road-testing the technology on their recent tour by interacting with their fans backstage and broadcasting their live show on stage.
Hangouts are the killer social tool when it comes to business as seen in the promotional video Google released.
The problem with Hangouts arises when you don’t make “buddies” out of all of your clients and they come onto the Hangout to complain. It’s going to be interesting to see how small business owners are going to handle that one. For large corporate brands this creates yet another platform to moderate and handle your reputation. With sharing of content on the increase, it’s going to be even more imperative that your brand is handled in a professional (read: Not embarrassing) manner.
Of interest is how Google+ Pages is going to handle privacy. Susan Beebe, a Dell Corporate PR and Social Business Strategist, has neatly highlighted the differences between Google+ Profiles and Pages on her Google+ Post:
- Pages can’t add people to circles until the page is added first or mentioned.
- Pages can be made for a variety of different entities whereas profiles can only be made for people.
- The default privacy setting for elements on your page profile is public.
- Pages have the +1 button.
- Pages can’t +1 other pages, nor can they +1 stuff on the Web.
- Pages can’t play games.
- Pages don’t have the option to share to “Extended circles”.
- Pages don’t receive notifications via email, text, or in the Google bar.
- Pages can’t hangout on a mobile device.
- Local pages have special fields that help people find the businesses physical location.
The first point that Pages can’t randomly add people to their circles, is particularly noteworthy. One of the frustrations with Facebook’s outlook on privacy is that users can get randomly invited events that they’re not interested in.
Direct Connect is a great feature which allows users to add Pages to their circles simply by searching (+) and the (brand name) for example: +Pepsi. This means you don’t have to physically visit the Google+ Page in order to interact with it.
Google+ still has to work out how the two-way communication between brands and users works as users can post comments on Page posts but can’t post comments on the brand’s Page itself. TechCrunch’s Josh Constine adds that: “The ability to post questions and feedback to their walls and have discussions with admins and other fans is leading Facebook Pages to become a new customer service channel that brands can’t afford to ignore.” Google needs to realise this and iterate this into Google+ Pages.
The omission of a robust analytics platform could be a good strategic move for Google+. By not having strict on-site measurement it could stop brands from writing off the platform too early.
The signs are there that this will soon change, especially with the recent launch of Ripples which lets users see how their posts are being shared. Surely, it wouldn’t be so hard a thing for Google+ Pages to come pre-loaded with Google Analytics and for users with Google accounts to link the two up.
Ripples is going to be the key for content providers to see how it is shared and glean insights into what’s working for their customers or not. Combining Ripples into Analytics makes reporting on Google+ that much more incisive.
If we step back from the micro-debate around product comparison and take a look at Google’s increasingly large social media ecosystem, which includes location-based services, products like Google Offers, and the introduction of Ripples what we see is that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. Businesses are now going to be able to target users with location-based special deals, talk to them in real-time and start to measure the effect of what they produce.