Branding on Google+
Many media outlets have characterized Google+ as Google's answer to Facebook. While true on the level of social media functionality, Google is positioning the platform to run in ways that are quite different. The recent emphasis has been on real identities and video, and in the longer term, user control of the experience is a priority. Companies will be able to develop brand pages and promote them within the platform but they will reach only people who have a genuine interest in the product or service.
The Google+ platform will eventually include games, apps, and video. Companies can develop pages that include such features and use them to promote their brands or keep in touch with their customers. Development of these capabilities is slow. TechCrunch reports that David Glazer, the Google+ director of engineering, wants to roll out the new features gradually. Speaking at the SocialApps 2012 Conference, he said, "[Google wants to] find the balance between people saying 'I hope they never let anyone make a game on Google+' and people saying 'I can't wait for games on Google+.'" The emphasis will be on showing users only content that they want to see.
The other side of a focus on the user is that Google is trying to limit membership in Google+ to people using real names. Google encourages companies to use Web pages to interact with Google+ and not try to use aliases. In a policy revision, Google now accepts established nicknames from people but is still suspending accounts opened under assumed or fictional identities. Eventually companies can encourage Google+ users to add the company to his Circle. Once a user adds a company page to one of his Circles, the company can be sure it is dealing with a real person and an actual or potential customer.
On the Google+ Developers Page, discussions center on the video features of Google+ and on adding pages. On the video side, the Hangout API lets users view videos together with groups of people from their Circles or just meet in a kind of video-conferencing configuration. Eventually users will be able to create, edit, and post videos here, but they will stay in control--able to select what they see.
The Developers Page encourages viewers to add the page to one of their Circles. Opening the page from within Google+ lets the visitor click to add the page and display a list with the choice of adding it to any of their circles. The process demonstrates how branded pages may work in Google+, but it is not yet clear how people will be able to find the branded pages they want to add. For the moment, Google says such discovery will have to take place via organic search.
Companies who may want to develop a presence on Google+ can already develop branded pages and videos and make them available for adding to circles. Experimenting internally with Web pages, videos and groups of employees can give companies a feel for the possibilities of the Google+ circle concept as related to branding.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.