There is no doubt that Google+ has received a mixed response so far, but Monday’s launch of Google+ business pages could potentially change this initial public apathy.
As of Monday, Google+ is allowing businesses and brands to create their own Google+ page, enabling them to interact and engage directly with customers and fans. But Facebook already does this right? True, but one unique feature exclusive to Google+ is the ability to create a live chat with customers in real-time. Google+ does this using Google+ Hangout, essentially a webcam video forum.
Although this in itself is an intriguing feature, the real game changer here is how closely Google will choose to integrate Google+ pages within its search engine.
At the moment, Facebook fan pages are generally only of use when a user is logged onto Facebook, but the Google+ pages could appear at various points during a user’s browsing experience; promoting both the business and Google+ itself. The Google+ page could potentially appear when a user searches for a product, uses Google Maps or even reads a relevant news article.
Social media professionals and technophiles have long anticipated this move, in fact many wondered why Google+ did not allow this capability as soon as the social network left beta. So why now? Well, no one is really sure and it is puzzling to figure the rationale behind the timing. Many optimists presumed that the wait must have been due to the fact that Google was creating a revolutionary platform to truly challenge the might of Facebook.
But upon release, it seems as though Goggle+ business pages are indistinguishable from its user pages. In fact, this initial release seems incapable of accommodating many of the crucial components that social media marketers use to engage and build a community. Where is the capability to create a poll or a contest? And where are the crucial analytics or the potential to introduce multiple admins? (Something that is essential for teams that are managing large, established brands).
The introduction of Google+ business pages may not result in a giant surge of users signing up to Google+, but membership numbers are not Google’s real problem, as the social network has in excess of 50 million members. The real problem is that no one really spends much time on Google+. The new business pages feature could be the injection of life Google has been looking for, giving users more reason to click through and interact with their favorite brands and businesses. Time will tell.