Yesterday Google finally rolled out something that businesses have been anticipating for a long time: business pages for Google +.
Up until now the platform has been solely for individual users, and the powers that be have been incredibly active in shutting down profiles from businesses trying to jump the gun (something I wish Facebook would do with businesses that set up personal profiles). But now that Google+ Business Pages are available, we’re seeing a bit of a land grab. I’m seeing a lot of my peers foaming at the mouth, even though they have been underwhelmed by the platform from the user perspective. To me, that is rather telling. Also, some are proclaiming that Google’s integration of search with the platform, via it’s Direct Connect technology, is a game changer. But is it really?
As someone who works in Social Media, I feel an obligation to at least test and try out most new platforms. As a result, I took the time to create a page for Inkling Media over on Google+, but then I sat there and said to myself, “Now what?” (And I’m not making that up. I literally did utter those words!).
So, as I’ve said in the past, I’m still not sold. I’m not convinced this is a game changer. But I’ll still be there and I’ll still be playing around and keeping an eye on things as they progress.
Here are a few of my early observations, understanding that these business pages are only a day old, and there will be changes and additions down the line. Also, as you read this, please remember that I’m primarily concerned with how small businesses and local businesses might use the platform. While I may give examples from corporate brands, I’m less concerned with them:
1. The structure of the pages makes Google+ even more like Facebook than it has been up until now – The look and feel of the pages seems to have a structure similar to Facebook’s business pages, yet with a lot less functionality, though I’m sure that will come with the integration of apps.
2. Switching between personal profile and business page isn’t easy – On Facebook, I log on as me, and can access my pages. On Google+ these seem to be separate functions, and it doesn’t recognize that “Ken Mueller” is “Inkling Media”. Maybe I’m missing something, but that needs to be easier to do.
3. Privacy - It appears as though there is less privacy on Google+ than there is on Facebook. As a business, I have more access to the personal profiles of both those who are following me, and just about anyone who is on the platform. Facebook has done a good job of preventing this, and making it easier for users to keep their information more private. I’ll be interested to see how Google deals with this, and how much they will allow businesses to interact with individuals OFF of the business page, and ON user profiles, if at all.
4. Search - This is where Google has made their name, and why many view the integration of search and Direct Connect within Google+ as a game changer. But I don’t think it’s really that different. Putting a plus sign before a search term to find the Google+ business page of a particular brand isn’t all that novel. Pepsi is one of the first brands on the platform. If I do a search for Pepsi, not only do I get their web page, but I get their Facebook and Twitter accounts. So far I don’t get their + page. Granted, it takes time to build that SEO value, but it should be there. And again, the idea of inbound marketing is to have the searches be less intentional. Anyone can search for a product by name. But what we want, and why we use Social Media as a brand, is for people to find us when they are looking for our brand category or product category. It’s one thing to search for “Plumbers Lancster PA” and another to search for “Mueller’s Plumbing and Heating”. One is intentional, the other is less so.
There is much more functionality in the Facebook pages and from an Inbound Marketing perspective, businesses are much more easily “found” by users as they are navigating the platform. And I don’t mean intentionally found. If all you have to do is rely on being intentionally found, then it is no better than a website.
5. Content – This is where I get stuck. What do I post on Google+? The same content that I post on Facebook? And if so, am I really reaching an different audience? I would bet that a large majority of + users are also on Facebook, and where are they spending more time? Is it worth it to merely duplicate content, or should you create unique content? If so, that’s a major time commitment, and how do you decide what content goes on which platform? Are we spinning our wheels and spreading ourselves too thin?
6. Engagement – Regardless of the content, if you have a presence on a “social” platform, your customers expect engagement. I was not surprised when I checked out the Angry Birds page on Google + to see that a lot of the comments were people asking questions about the timing of updates, and availability on different mobile platforms. What I was surprised to see was this response from the page:
What this indicates to me, and the fans of Angry Birds, is that they would love you to give them feedback, but don’t expect any real responses. Is that really smart? Feedback should be a two-way street. All this to say, if you’re on Twitter, Facebook, other platforms, and now Google+, that just gives you one more place where you need to both monitor what is being said about you, and hopefully respond. Are you up to the task? Can you engage on yet another channel? Sounds like Angry Birds is only throwing some of their eggs into the Google+ basket. (See how I did that??)
7. Contests and Promotions – This is an interesting one. Google currently says they won’t allow any contests and promotions at all on the platform. On Facebook, you can do contests, but by using a third party app. This is why a lot of businesses like to use Facebook. I imagine we’ll see a lot of violations of this TOS policy on +, and if Google’s history is any indication, those pages will most likely be shut down.
8. The audience – This is of utmost importance: are your customers and prospective customers using Google+? And how many of them? The numbers are still incredibly small (about 50-million) when compared to Facebook (800-million +). More importantly, are they active on the platform? I think for larger brands, Google+ might make sense, but for smaller, local brands, now might not yet be the time. You need to evaluate this for your own business and do what makes sense. I only have anecdotal evidence to go by, but I’m the only member of my family on G+, and I’m there by nature of what I do for a living. None of the other four people in my household have shown even the slightest interest. They are John Q. Public. Will the general public show up? I’m not seeing too much of it yet.
9. Clutter - One of the things that many like about + as opposed to Facebook is the lack of clutter. If Google has their way, and is successful, that will change. Google wants Facebook like numbers, both for users and businesses. So the clutter will come.
Should you be on Google+? Perhaps. But think through the decision carefully before you add “one more thing” to your already busy schedule. It has to make sense for you in terms of the time and effort you spend there.
Clearly, Google isn’t done yet. Much more functionality will be added, but with every passing day, Facebook continues to grow and advance. And you can bet that Facebook is playing around with Google+ and looking for the features that users like that might work on Facebook as well.
Oh, and as we move forward, beware the experts. It won’t be long before we are bombarded with requests to pay for webinars and ebooks promising us success on this new platform. Steer clear of those for awhile and play around on your own. It’s much too early for someone to be an “expert”.
What are you seeing from the platform? Will you be creating a business page for your business on Google+? If so, how will you manage it?
- Google Launches Google+ Pages for Businesses (developsocially.com)
- Google+ Finally Launches Business Pages (hubspot.com)
- Facebook is for Whiners, Google + is for…?? (inklingmedia.net)
- Why Isn’t Your Business on Google+ Yet?? (inklingmedia.net)
- The Two Elephants in the Room: Google+ and Facebook (inklingmedia.net)