evolutionThe moment that so many have been waiting for is here. Google+ Pages for brands and businesses went online this week! Let’s take a look at Google’s newest offering and consider some of the implications.

Pages v. Profiles

Just as it happened in the days when Facebook Pages debuted, there is some confusion about the difference between the two. Let’s start with the key elements:

  • Pages can’t add people to circles until the page is added first or mentioned. This is a wonderful limit on brand intrusion within the platform. A very smart move proving the company has learned from its earlier blunders in the social sphere. Facebook has often been criticized for not adopting an opt-in approach like this.
  • Pages can be made for a variety of different entities whereas profiles can only be made for people. Just like Facebook Pages, although many people out there are still confused by this.
  • The default privacy setting for elements on your page profile is public. Hardly shocking, as it is meant for brand promotion.
  • Pages have the +1 button. You cannot +1 a profile, but pages can be treated just like websites that have the button integrated.
  • Pages can’t +1 other pages, nor can they +1 stuff on the Web. I’m sure a lot of people will complain about this, but I think it puts the focus back on quality of interaction. It’s a social space — be social or be ineffective.
  • Pages can’t play games. Not a great loss.
  • Pages don’t have the option to share to “Extended circles.” Again, a limit on reach that aggravates many marketers but will also go a long way toward “keeping the pool clean.”
  • Pages don’t receive notifications via email, text, or in the Google bar. This I am underwhelmed by. Some sort of notification system needs to be developed soon. For professionals, especially those who will be managing multiple pages, it is vital to be able to get real-time notifications.
  • Pages can’t hang out on a mobile device. A blow to those with a focus on mobile, perhaps, but I can’t see it being a big issue.
  • Local pages have special fields that help people find the business’ physical location. With the boom in location-based services like Yelp, this is a wonderful new tool.

All in all, it looks like Google has provided a terrific suite of tools for brands with its new Pages program. The thing I am impressed with is the way it has selectively limited brand participation in favor of user control. Making sure that interactions are all on an opt-in basis is both smart and ethical.

Direct Connect: Ubiquity and Search

Direct Connect is basically a shortcut in Google’s search engine that allows you to jump directly to a brand’s Google+ page. This is huge.

Let’s turn the mic over to Caleb Garling, who addresses the subject in his recent article for Wired:

But more importantly, Google integrates Plus into its web-dominating search engine. With Google+ Direct Connect, searchers can insert a ‘+’ before their query and jump directly to a business’s Google+ page. Type ‘+YouTube’ into a Google search box, for instance, and Google will take you straight to YouTube’s Plus page.

This is where Google will have an advantage over Facebook: With a broad array of services like search and Gmail and Chrome and Android, Google offers tools that are fundamental to the online lives of so many people — and these can be tied to Google+. As Google+ evolves, Google will have the means to promote its social network — and the branded Pages within it — in ways that Facebook or Twitter cannot.

I know a lot of people who rely on Google tools for most of their work. I use them extensively myself. The seamless integration of G+ across the board gives it one special advantage: ubiquity.

Sam Diaz at ZDNet is right on the money when he speaks about the magnitude of the Big G’s approach:

You see, this is no longer just about ‘social.’ This is the face of the new interactive Internet, a one-up over the traditional Web site. These Google+ pages are powered by search, share and followers. This isn’t a static place where companies host their corporate blogs or post their news releases. This is a dynamic environment where companies host live video ‘hangout’ sessions and engage in discussions with their followers.

Promotions Policy

Google’s policy on pages running promotions is even stricter than Facebook’s. The promotion policy for Google+ Pages prohibits brands from running any promotions or competitions directly on their Google+ page. Linking to promotions hosted elsewhere — on a website, for instance — is fine, as long as the promotion is not hosted on Google+ itself.

Joe Robb posted a really sharp observation on Google+ on this subject:

Google will use G+ data to influence how they deliver results to search queries. If a company could give away awesome prizes in exchange for +1s or ‘encircling’, the data would be skewed and would be worthless.

In the end, this will result in cleaner data and an increased spend from marketers.

Facebook’s data (in comparison) is dirty and doesn’t stand a chance. [Note: Check out the comments on his original post, lined above, for more discussion of this point.]

It seems obvious that Google has not only made an effort to learn from its ill-fated attempts at social media (anyone remember Buzz?), but to also to pay particular attention to the missteps of Zuckerberg and company. It is evident in its user interface, and it is evident in its policy as well. While some will complain about the reduced ability to interact, I predict this will be one of the things that really makes Pages take off.

Next Time: A Closer Look at Google+ Pages: How-To’s and Tips.

Source: “Why Google Plus Pages (Will) Beat Facebook. And Twitter,” Wired, 11/08/11
Source: “Day 1 of Google+ Pages: The Muppets Fall Flat, But Brands Are Trying to Engage,” Read Write Web, 11/07/11
Source: “Google+ Pages: The power of search is the game-changer,” ZDNet, 11/08/11
Source: “Google+ Pages: connect with all the things you care about,” The Official Google Blog, 11/07/11
Source: “Public Post on Google+ by Joe Robb,” Google, 11/08/11
Image by cambodia4kids.org (Beth Kanter), used under its Creative Commons license.

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