Thursday, November 24, 2011

Google+ Pages for Businesses

Google have released their eagerly anticipated Google+ pages allowing businesses, brands and organisations to have a presence on Google+. Previously, only personal profiles were available, with reports that Google had deleted pages found to be using Google+ for business purposes.

So – does your brand need a Google+ page?

We’ve compiled a list of Pros and Cons from the many recent blog posts on the subject.

Pros include:
• One feature unique to the platform are ‘Hangouts‘; the Google+ group video/audio chat feature. These provide an exciting opportunity for live interaction with fans, although the fact that they can only have a maximum of 9 participants limits their reach. The Black Eye Peas recently hosted a ‘Hangout’ backstage prior to one of their concerts, check out the video here. Note that Google are working on a “Hangouts on Air” feature, which allows a Hangout to be viewed by any users who have added the brand to their Circles. In the meantime, some brands have taken to broadcasting their “hangouts” to a wider audience, using TV and YouTube.
• Integration with search via the 'Direct Connect' feature. Users searching for a brand on Google.com with a “+” sign in front of the brand name have the option to add that brand’s Google+ page directly to their Circles from the results page. See Direct Connect in action in this video.
• Brands can sort their audience into ‘Circles’; segmenting their audience so they can target groups of followers with particularly relevant posts.
• Opportunity to capture more +1’s for your brand; Google aggregate +1’s across your website, ads, search results & Google+ page. Your +1 total is displayed on your Google+ page.
• The potential for integration with other Google products (e.g. Google Search, Places, Maps and YouTube) in the future is another reason to create a Google+ page.


Cons include:
• Smaller user base – Google+ has an estimated 40 million users worldwide vs. Facebook’s audience of 800 million.
• Unlike Facebook pages, running contests and promotions is not allowed on Google+ pages.
• Only one person (or email address) can be the admin of each page; meaning you’ll need to share an email address, and won’t be able to track who posted what on the page. Multiple administrator support is promised in the future.
• The mechanism to follow a Google+ brand page is not as simple as it is on Facebook (where you just click the “like” button). With Google+, users need to add a brand to their Circles in order to see its posts in their Stream; depending on the user’s preferences, this may require creating a new Circle. This requires a little more effort, and may be confused with the “+1” button on the page (which publicly recommends the page, but doesn’t result in the brand page being followed).
• Google+ pages are currently totally separate from a business’ Google Places page, and the two must be managed separately; it would be ideal to be able to link the two pages.
• Vanity URLs (e.g. https://plus.google.com/brandname) are not available, so Google+ URLs tend to be lengthy and difficult to memorise.
• Currently, there is a lack of analytics capability, so it is difficult to gain insight into who your fans are and which content they’re interacting with on your brand page. 'Ripples' (a visual representation of the reach of individual pieces of content) give some insights, but not to the level of other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Google say that more advanced analytics tools are coming soon.






Should your company set up a Google+ page?
The short answer is – it depends.

Whilst Google+ pages are lacking in some areas when compared to similar platforms like Facebook, it’s important to remember they’re still very new, and that Google are working on a number of updates. It really is too early to dismiss them!

I feel that future integration with other Google products – and the potential for improved visibility in the search engine results pages (SERPs) – will be Google+’s differentiating feature. This will certainly be something to watch.

Another consideration is the competitive landscape – if your competitors are developing a presence on Google+, it may be wise to consider adding it to your social media activity.
Additionally, the possibility for fraudulent activity may be a motivating factor. It is reasonably easy to set up a fake Google+ page for a brand or company; creating your own page may reduce the likelihood of a fake page being set up in your business’ name.

Like any social marketing activity, brands should ensure they understand their target market and have a clear content and engagement plan in place. They will also require a suitable resource (either internal or external) to maintain page content, as well as specific objectives to measure success.


Want more information?

• Watch Google’s video about the new Google+ pages for businesses.
• New Zealand companies who are already using Google+ pages include Air New Zealand and NZ Herald.
• We found some great blog posts at Search Enginge Watch, Likeable, Search Engine Land, Clickz, Ad Age & TechCrunch, which were used to research our post.

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