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As Google+ gains user traction, demand from brands that want to engage with their users is going to increase drastically. Some crafty brands have even tried to set up profiles to no avail, with Google+ Product Manager ,Christian Oestlien posting that Google is working on a solution that is an optimal experience both for users and their adored brands. Oestlien goes on to say:
Over the next few months we are going to be running a small experiment with a few marketing partners to see the effect of including brands in the Google+ experience. We’ll begin this pilot with a small number of named partners.
One such experiment is Ford’s “Test Account“, which shows some interesting developments with regards to how brands can showcase their products, possibly convert and effectively engage with interested users. Let’s take a look at some of the features that Ford is testing out in their account.
The description line that is normally associated with “real” people:
This allows the Ford brand to be a bit more human and open to engagement, especially when they say they love social media. As an aside, this is a great under-handed advertisement for Ford, showing early adopters that they’re so into social media that they’re willing to trial an experimental format in Google+.
Product showcasing and brand immersion: Being able to display pictures of your product is one thing it’s going to escalate, for better or worse, when the space could possibly be filled by User Generated Content (UGC).
Where this could work for Ford is when users can post pictures of themselves enjoying life in their vehicles.
Linking to Twitter accounts to create “Buzz”: We’ve seen that word somewhere, haven’t we? This has all the hallmarks of being a case where Google learns from the failures of past products and being able to broadcast your Twitter feed in Google+ is a massive draw card for companies who have invested in their Twitter accounts. This flies in the face of recent articles that suggest the “Firehose” relationship between Twitter and Google+ is over. In fact, if we look at their “About” section we can see links to Ford’s Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and their own site.
“Bragging rights” and an “Introduction” allow companies to differentiate themselves: If you’re comparing the Ford Everest to the Land Rover Discovery, it might help you to know that Ford has been in the business for over 100 years and has 70 plants worldwide. Right now, all they’re saying is that they’re helping Google out with this business profile.
“Places lived” allows for geo-location information about the brand: Wouldn’t it be cool to know where your brand’s closest outlet is? No? What if the brand sent you messages specific to your location? Still not good enough? How about specific deals for your area? Now we’re talking about a service that could stand up against the group buying phenomenon that is currently sweeping the net.
Where this experiment gets most interesting however, is checking out what Ford is doing in the “Posts” section of their account. The usual suspects, the broadcasting of a YouTube video, are there, but the rabbit-hole gets deeper when it comes to crowdsourcing, not only on behalf of Ford but Google+ as well:
On the 8th of July, Ford held a hangout session between its director of marketing communications and its users to discuss “Ford’s digital and social media success”. What’s most interesting, though, is that Ford is also experimenting with a service called “Hangout Party” which claims to be “the site to view of all the most happening Hangouts taking place on Google+” and lets users “watch and participate in concerts, lectures, random craziness”. The service is not run by Google and when I logged onto the service it seemed empty save for the fact that it’s launching in 16 days (at time of publishing).
Whilst we haven’t seen anything crazy yet, the signs from Google+ are that integration with other platforms and adding a social layer to their products is going to be key. How these features are adapted or combined with brands and their need to engage with users, is going to be key to its monetisation and survival.