Battered & Bruised, Google Needs To Show Google+’s Value To Businesses

Google+ CartoonIn my last post, I gave an overview on Google+, Google’s latest foray into the social media world and something that continues to need innovation in order to compete with the likes of Facebook, Skype and a slew of other social services currently on the market. Also in that post, I highlighted some things I felt were inconsistent in its growth and that would cause some heartache for those eager to try a new network.

But, now that we’ve battered and bruised Google+ a bit, I think the time now is to pick it up, wipe the dust off of it and think about the positive aspects of the service. So what’s so good about Google+? What are some of the benefits that businesses should look at when exploring this new service and how can they make it useful? Well, let’s take a look.

The one network your business will ever use

I’m not taking the use of the above phrase lightly. After all, it’s not supposed to be 100% accurate, but what Google+ has over small and medium sized businesses is simply this: Google. Yes, these businesses are already using Google apps for business so why would it be so far-fetched for Google+ to be of benefit to them? Sure the service is not enterprise-quality and will probably never be used in a company-wide case like within Salesforce, IBM, Ford or even in the US government, but it still has a purpose with startups, “mom & pop” businesses, small businesses and even medium-sized businesses. They’re probably already using Google applications and what Google+ seems to do is offer a pretty reliable integration point (dare I say even a centralized location) for people to interact with their co-workers.

Perhaps the one biggest feature is the possibility of Google+ being practically used as a Intranet and Extranet for your company. By simply creating an account on Google+, you can set up a profile just for your brand which can be a good place for people to find more information about your brand, add it to their Circle, engage in specific brand events like Hangouts, chats, or share interesting posts – almost like it’s a Facebook page, except it’s not totally closed off to the public. In fact, sticking with that point, Google+ offers people to share posts publicly without needing user registration, but you can also still hide things from public view – that granular privacy could be beneficial to companies interested in a low-cost, but more engaging use of a social network to their cause.

Power to the page

Google+ branded page mockupTo reiterate the point of the potential of Google+ pages for brands, let’s look at a image drawn up by Sean Percival (@percival), former Vice President of MySpace. In his post, he makes some pretty good points on how powerful brands can have it:

Using Google’s +1 button: Fan measurement can happen through the use of the +1 button. Brands can look at how many people “like” their posts or websites that they share through the +1 button.

Verification: Mr. Percival states that “determining if a profile is genuine is important.” As of right now, there is no verification status like what you would get on Twitter. But if Google decides to offer a verification service, then more people will be inclined to add the brand to a Circle.

Displaying Circles: This is one point that I agree with. In his post, Mr. Percival says that by displaying Circles, it’s a great chance to segment your audience and even “showcase top fans or employees”. This public display would be a great feature, but a non-public Circle would be great to use in order to filter through a segmented community. In essence, it’s almost like a social email marketing program, except nothing is getting marked as SPAM. Now if only people could add your brand to their Circle and let you know which Circle they would belong to – perhaps some sort of tagging feature/registration system that will allow you to better customize the community?

Google Offers: With all these Groupon’esque services emerging to offer daily deals, Google has launched Google Offers as a way to combat the daily deal crazy. So why wouldn’t it make sense to simply leverage this Google property and allow it to be embedded into Google+? That way specially targeted people in your community could potentially receive special deals only available on your Google+ profile?

You can read more about Sean Percival’s ideas for Google+ pages for brands by clicking here.

Why hello Intranet

Before now, there were several scattered ways to create a company Intranet. You could use Ning or setup an Intranet through Sharepoint or some other software. Either way, it was a bit decentralized and it was just another place for you to log in. And of course, Google does have their own site builder program, but it’s either a public site or a wiki. Nothing too fascinating. But with Google+, companies could potentially set up a private network using an existing Google account and create Circles just for your company. Now obviously this wouldn’t be worth it if you were setting up a Google+ account for work that you use for your personal things – that could lead to trouble. But if your IT department does set up your email address as a Google account, then you can easily create an Intranet and leverage all the fascinating features. Now you can simply use a one-stop shop to manage everything and it all starts with your Gmail account.

What possibilities are there on Google+ for brands? Well, you can have Google Hangouts with remote employees or people on your team easily and conduct virtual meetings. Or, can use their Huddle feature to have instant chat leveraging Google Talk. Photos and videos could be shared specifically with your co-workers and now with Blogger and Picasa being integrated into Google+, the enormous potential for co-workers setting up department blogs and having a company-wide photo album is amazing. Lastly, as GigaOm points out in their article on Google+ in the workplace (they agree, by the way, that the service is good for business), the use of Sparks on Google+ would be good in order to be a resource that will be “useful in the workplace for research or keeping abreast of industry news…” and therefore allow co-workers to share it with their colleagues on this social service.

But it ain’t perfect…

Google+ Ford Motor Company pageBut for all the glammer and glitz that I might have shown here, Google+ is not 100% what businesses want and it will take a bit of time before more brands catch up to what’s going on. Right now there aren’t that many brands on the service. In fact, one of the only brands on there is the Ford Motor Company. But is it coincidence that Ford was one of the early adopters of Google+? For one, its head of social media, Scott Monty (@scottmonty) is active on the social media track and second, the brand is heavily into the technology. But regardless, they seemed to have embraced that which is a Google+ page.

Nevertheless, let’s not forget that Google+ is still in beta form and there’s a lot more for brands to do on this site before it can be taken with 100% legitimacy. In fact, GigaOm cites several reasons why it’s not totally ready:

  • While well-designed, there’s plenty more room for it to grow in order for it to compete against Yammer and Salesforce — namely, it needs users and those may or may not arrive.
  • Not quite integrated with Google Apps. It does not yet have a sound integration plan with the myriad of Google tools that businesses would find useful like Google Docs or any other Google Apps in their marketplace.

There are several others, but suffice it to say, there is room for potential and while we can evaluate the good and the bad of Google+, I think it is safe to say that we have a bit of potential for brands on the site and, in the end, is a good enough starting point for people to think about using it.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."