What do Michael Dell, Dolly Parton and the Dalai Lama have in common*? Yes, you guessed it, they’re all on Google+. And companies can get involved too, now that Google has opened its doors to businesses. Here’s my guide for communications professionals that are considering whether their company needs to create a Google+ Page.
Google+ was soft-launched as an invite only service for individuals in June 2011 and has since signed up over 40 million users worldwide. Although a number of commentators wrote Google+ off when its growth appeared to slow, it’s back in vogue now that businesses can get involved with their own profile Pages.
What is Google+?
Often described as a cross between Facebook and Twitter, Google+ (or Google Plus or G+, as it’s sometimes written) allows users to create a network of contacts and share news and views with them via status updates. Although it has been touted as a Facebook killer, I believe Google+ presents more of a risk to Twitter, as it’s more about discovering new people to follow and share things with.
Google+’s USP is “Circles”, which allow users to put people they are following into groups, such as “friends”, “journalists” and “clients”. Other features include “Hangouts”, which enable Skype-like video networks, plus a chat function, photos and games.
Now, Google+ has opened up Pages for business, which replicates a user profile for an organisation. The user that sets up the page can then flip between their personal and business profiles to post content, share links, photos and videos, etc.
A Google+ Page can be created using the Create A Page tool. Vanity URLs (a company name – e.g. https://plus.google.com/Starbucks – are not available yet). If you don’t like the name of your Page you can change it at any time.
Why is it important for businesses?
Like many of these things, there’s a gold rush as people want to establish their presence on a new platform. Businesses can use Pages to directly interact with customers, update them about news, host Hangout video conferences and create business circles. What makes all this important is that it plugs in to the Google universe. So, Google+ Pages will appear in search results (predominantly, no doubt) and will link to a Google Adwords campaign.
Further benefits include the +1 button (similar to a Facebook Like) which allows businesses to get immediate feedback from customers and the Google+ icon (similar to a Follow Me on Twitter icon), which can feature on businesses’ websites. Pages cannot +1 other pages, nor can they +1 anything on the web.
Google+’s Circles feature will no doubt appeal to brands that may want to segment its messages to different audiences – for example, customers, media or analysts.
Business Pages can follow people, but only once they’ve been followed first – Google+ users must first add the Page to their circles before the page can add them.
Pages can be found through “Direct Connect” in Google Search. If people search for the business with a + symbol in front of the name, the Google + Page will appear first in the search. There’s a short video explaining this feature.
Of course, Google being Google, a host of new features will be just around the corner.
What should I do next?
Businesses should certainly register their Pages now. Anyone with an existing Google+ account can do this (a potentially dangerous feature, in our view), and it is a reasonably intuitive process to create a profile, add a picture, company description and so on. Mashable has created a handy guide, for additional help.
Of course, businesses should consider their Google+ strategy. Questions that need to be considered include:
- What do we want to get out of Google+?
- Who is the audience?
- What content will be included on the page – e.g. photos, news updates?
- How circles will work – e.g. whether to include different content for staff and customers?
- Who has responsibility for updating the page?
- How many pages are going to be created for the company – e.g. whether to have divisional or branch pages?
- How does the company engage with customers (we’ve seen many car crash examples of this going wrong on Facebook)?
- How does the business page link with other platforms – e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter?
- Be careful when switching between accounts – a personal update may appear to come from the business accidently if the account is inadvertently left unswitched.
- Anyone can create a Google+ business Page: Unlike LinkedIn, which requires a company email address to create and edit a business Page, Google+ is completely open. There’s a risk of potentially damaging fake pages being created. Although Google+ enables brands to report these, it’s unclear how quickly Google+ will respond; and it doesn’t take into account staff creating unauthorised Pages.
- Only one person ‘owns’ a page at a time: This is surely something Google will change soon, but as it stands at the moment, only a single person can amend a Page. So if the owner leaves or is indisposed, no-one else can edit it.
- Keeping on top of comments, especially negative ones, needs to be considered: Users can visit a page and leave a comment on a status update (even if they don’t add the page to a circle). Page owners aren’t notified via email, text or in the Google+ bar when this happens. Users can also be blocked from pages – if you block someone, you won’t see their content in your stream, they won’t be able to comment on your content and they won’t be able to mention you in their posts or comments. While page owners can delete comments, it’s not advisable and the Facebook experience suggests that users backlash against this. A proper process for dealing with comments needs to be established.
- Google doesn’t allow contests and competitions: According to Google+ Pages Contest and Promotion Policies, Page admins may not “run contests, sweepstakes, offers, coupons or other such promotions directly on Google+ Pages.” Instead, you may post a link to separate sites where the competition is hosted.
- Think about the compliance angle: Like any other social media platform, you need to consider the compliance implications, which is particularly relevant to financial services providers.
- The ROI is yet to be established: 40 million Google+ users is a lot of people, but it’s dwarfed by Facebook’s 800 million. The time spent creating and updating the Page vs the benefit, might not make Google+ Pages worthwhile – but it’s worth considering experimenting with Pages.
Businesses already with Pages:
* Thanks to Chris Brogan for the reference Michael Dell, Dalai Lama and Dolly Parton reference
- How to Set Up Google Plus Business Pages (epiphanysolutions.co.uk)
- Google+ Business Pages (smallbusinessmavericks.com)
- Google Won’t Allow Contests And Promotions On Google+ Pages – TechCrunch (techcrunch.com)
- Google+ Finally Launches Business Pages (hubspot.com)