The launch earlier this week of branded pages on the social network, Google+, will have registered on the radar on many marketers.
But is it worth them getting involved? And how should brands go about it?
Finding official brand pages on Google+ shouldn’t be a problem. The ‘Direct Connect’ feature means consumers need simply to add a ‘+’ to a brand name in the search box on Google.
But what’s the point of devoting scarce resources to Google+ when many brands already have bells and whistles and engaged audiences on an official Facebook presence?
There are some nice pre-set circles (customers, VIPs, team members etc) that let you segment audiences and create different content for different audience groups in a way that’s much simpler to navigate than on Facebook.
So, you can have separate circles for customer service, for example, or competition offers to different customers. We’ll watch to see whether it will be possible to integrate this with a CRM system, which would make it very powerful from the brand’s point of view.
The customer service option is interesting. You can start a ‘hangout’ (video conversation) with customers to answer queries – the next best thing to face to face - moving discussions away from the main page.
This is an exclusive benefit that Facebook will no doubt move quickly to replicate.
Integration of Google+ with Google analytics seems inevitable. People are used to Google analytics and integration of their community pages on will keep things nice and simple.
Google+ is not without its frustrations, however (although the roadmap for new features should be healthy given the resources that Google have at its disposal).
For example, at the moment, you can only have one admin on Google+, so don’t let the CEO set up a page with their personal log in details. Google says multiple admin rights are coming soon, which should make life easier for brands to manage the page.
The bigger issue, of course, is whether customers will engage with brands over Google, rather than (or as well as) Facebook.
At the moment, Facebook holds the aces (slick and familiar interface, bigger audience, first mover advantage etc.). But Google has other strings to its bow, so can afford to play the long game. In some ways there are parallels between the Nokia versus iPhone battle, two massive corporates with deep pockets going head to head for the same audience.
Google+’s success will depend on whether they’re able to i) learn from Facebook’s mistakes (privacy etc) and ii) differentiate (and regularly reinvent) its feature set and make itself impossible to ignore for brand owners.
Facebook’s branded presences only really started to appeal to mainstream brands about a year ago, stimulated by compelling case studies which showcased how early-adopters had pushed the boundaries, creatively and technologically, to inspire and engage mass audiences.
It would be in Google+’s interests to work with a handful of forward-thinking brands to showcase what was possible on their platform, and many more might not just feel tempted by compelled to follow suit.