Google has asked businesses not to use Google+ for entrepreneurial purposes…yet. The current version of Google’s newest social network is not properly outfitted for corporate interactions, but rest assured: it will be. Though some businesses have jumped the gun and created profiles already, Google has asked that the new social network be used for purely social interaction until it is further developed.
Google + Business Profiles: The Future of Online Marketing?
Since I finally received my invite to join the network, I have been playing around a lot with the Google + features. Thinking in business terms, there are a few features that would be very helpful for workplace collaboration. Though none of the features (that I have noticed) are separately revolutionary, the fact they could all be found in one place is groundbreaking. For example, the +Circles feature for business enterprises would likely involve a type of cloudlike, Dropbox type of action, where employees could organize work groups and then share documents within those project group circles. The possibilities for collaboration within the workplace (and out, with outsourced help or employees who live in other states) are numerous. Also, the +Hangouts feature would allow for employees to take this collaboration further with multi-person video conferences. Though Facebook now has a multi-person video chat feature (since it incorporated Skype), the workplace usefulness is diminished by the inability to immediately share whatever document you are talking about during your video chat conversation. Sure, you could email the document, or send it over the cloud; but how much easier would it be to be able to do all of this in one place? That is the true appeal of Google +.
These are just features that I think could be possible now; Google could very well defy anyone’s expectations when the search engine actually rolls out its business profiles in the coming months. Google has asked businesses to hold off on creating profiles for their businesses just yet, as the social network is really only usable for social purposes right now. However, when the business version rolls out, it is sure to take a chunk out of Facebook’s success with its business pages – Google + will offer usability and collaborative function, where Facebook solely provides a location for businesses to promote themselves and, in only some situations, engage with customers. Many businesses get stuck with a decision between creating a Facebook profile and friending customers or simply having a business page and getting customers and potential customers to “Like” it (sometimes companies choose to do both, which can be confusing for the “friend” and/or “liker”).
A Google + developer announced recently that the search engine’s engineers are currently working on creating a Google + that is better optimized for business use, emphasizing that the current beta version of the network is really focused on social (and not professional) interaction. However, some companies may still choose to build individual profiles, still representing their companies, and take part in the burgeoning Google+ community. Though they may not create an actual company profile, these people may still reach out to customers and interact with them through Google; this way, these companies may present themselves on the cutting edge of social networking technology and even learn about the ins and outs of Google + before they even begin to build business profiles when it is released later this year. Becoming individually involved with Google+ now is also an awesome way to figure out how people (i.e. potential customers) would best like to see a business profile utilized on the social network. Companies like Ford have taken this opportunity and received feedback from many people; for instance, someone suggested that Ford create a “Hangout” session with customers and car designers. This provides an amazing opportunity for engagement, especially among larger companies and their customer-bases.
Small companies also have a great deal to benefit from Google +. With a smaller group to reach out to, small companies could have frequent hangout sessions with customers, perhaps taking part in Question and Answer sessions and increasing transparency (which will build trust, hugely important in doing business and for SEO). Also, the +1 button that is integrated within Google + will be huge once companies have business profiles on the social network. Almost like a “like” (so people who view your business profile can +1 it), the +1 button will likely also contribute to search engine result relevancy. So, if customers like your future business profile, your site might be higher ranked within the circles of friends those who like you have cultivated.
Google+ Business profiles vs. Facebook pages
If the recent (and incredibly ironic) trend of people acquiring Google+ invites through Facebook friends continues, Google will quickly be able to siphon many of Facebook’s 750 million users for its own social network. Though many businesses are just adjusting to having Facebook pages and garnering “likes,” Google + could provide an even wider footprint for them: Google’s version of likes, +1, could affect user search results. This lends a great deal more importance to the concept of “+1ing,” something than Facebook cannot offer with “liking.”
With speculation that when Google + fully rolls out it will be the source for the (for now suspended) Real Time Search, a huge opportunity arises for businesses. When business profiles are introduced, small and large businesses alike could have the chance to trend, in real time, with user queries. This is another benefit the search engine can provide: exposure. This is something that can be difficult with a Facebook page. Yes, Facebook ads do bring your page to people who might be interested in it, but that can get expensive and may not even necessarily affect your company’s success. Facebook has no real search engine presence, whereas Google + might, in the future, facilitate the ability for companies to show up in Real Time organic search results. This could bring your business straight to people who may have not heard of you but who would be interested in your services; additionally, these people would see, right away, that you are an engaging company with a cutting edge social media presence.
This is our Facebook page. What would a future Google + Business profile do for us that would make it (possibly) be more effective than our Facebook page? Well, our blog posts might show up in Real Time Search results (when they come back), which would give us exposure to a targeted and interested audience. The +1 button would not only apply to our page (meaning, the “likes” here really just amount to promoting this page and our business) but it would also affect our place in the SERPs in certain instances. For example, if an SEO expert +1s our profile and perhaps even our website, that SEO expert’s contacts will likely see our profile and website in the SERPs more often, because we are relevant to their contact and therefore to them. Also, through “hangouts,” we could interact within the company circle, and we could also interact with our clients via a separate circle ( face-to-face!). Since we value transparency, this would be a huge perk for us.
Google + could be also used to track the demographic information of those who make purchases with Google’s current Android only e-wallet, and also shows promise for integration into other Google programs, namely Google Maps and Adwords. What this integration produces, and how well it will tie all of Google’s best programs together, remains to be seen; additionally, companies will almost certainly be able to utilize these abilities to their advantage through their future Google+ business profiles. What is for sure is that Facebook pages cannot really compete with any one of these platforms.
Take away point
As PCWorld’s Ilie Mitaru and Elsa Wenzel put it in their article, “Why Google + Business Profiles Will Trump Facebook Pages,” “When Google + business profiles allow you to integrate your business’s presence into trusted tools used by everyday searchers, it’s a proposition that neither Facebook nor business owners can afford to ignore.” However, we wont really know what Google has in store for its business profiles until it releases them later this year (though some businesses might get lucky enough to be apart of the beta test version!). Until then, we will continue playing around with Google + and its features, and you should too. There’s no denying that this new social network is slowly gaining a larger and larger following, and it’s important to stay on top of any developments from the Googleplex. Plus, it’s totally fun.