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The third time might just be the charm for Google. After watching its first two social networking initiatives, Buzz and Wave, flop, it looks like the search giant may have a hit on its hands with Google+.
Not surprisingly, brands, many of which have learned to eagerly embrace new digital technologies, want to kick the tires on Google+ sooner than later.
For Google, brand interest has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing: brands are very active on Facebook, and their interest in Google+ is an indicator of genuine interest in the company's new social networking service.
The curse: it appears Google wasn't really prepared for brand interest this soon and now has to rush to figure out how to let brands in without blowing the brand opportunity.
Last week, Google's Christian Oestlien posted this:
How users communicate with each other is different from how they communicate with brands, and we want to create an optimal experience for both. We have a great team of engineers actively building an amazing Google+ experience for businesses, and we will have something to show the world later this year.
Over the next few months we are going to be running a small experiment with a few marketing partners to see the effect of including brands in the Google+ experience.
We’ll begin this pilot with a small number of named partners. If you represent a “non-user entity” (e.g. business, organization, place, team, etc.) and would like to apply for consideration in our limited program (and be amongst the first to be alerted when the business product launches) you can sign up here: http://goo.gl/zq95C
This week, Oestlien posted a note on Google+ indicating that "thousands upon thousands" of businesses have applied to be a part of the pilot.
Clearly, Google will need to balance the need to get things right with the tremendous opportunity it has to get brands invested in Google+ at such an early stage.
Interestingly, Google may be doing brands a favor, and brands that don't get into the Google+ pilot may be the lucky ones. As my colleague Matt Owen recently noted, "it’s simply too early to tell what the platform is or how it will be used once Google opens [the Google+] invitation floodgates." This applies just as much to brands as it does to individuals.
Of course, brands have learned a lot about social media in the past several years, and many will likely be well-positioned to figure out what Google+ means to them much more quickly than they were able to figure out Facebook and Twitter.
But even so, the fastest horse out of the gates doesn't always win the race. Brands that don't rush to jump on the Google+ bandwagon may have to catch up later, but they won't have to risk overinvesting in the service if it eventually hits a wall and fizzles out.
They can also learn from the many mistakes that will almost certainly be made by early adopters.
At the end of the day, brands should consider that their rush to use Google+ could kill the goose that laid the golden egg. It has promise, but it needs time to develop.
Facebook had a lot of organic growth and maturity before it became a real hub for brand activity, and it's worth keeping in mind the possibility that had it been 'commercialized' too early, it may not have developed into the powerful platform for brands that it is today.