Google opened its social network to businesses Monday in a move to create relationships between brands and consumers. The long-awaited change didn't come as a surprise to brand, marketer and ad agency executives waiting to set up pages in Google+ since the launch earlier this year, but it did stir questions related to data and tools.
Google+ supports about 40 million users worldwide, compared with Facebook's 800 million members. Burberry, Pepsi, and Chelsea are among the new brands to set up pages on Google's social site.
A "Direct Connect" tool lets Google+ members search for a brand page at Google.com using the "+" prefix. A click on the query results takes the searcher to an existing Google+ page. So a google.com query search for +Burberry returns a link that takes searchers directly to the Burberry Google+ page.
This platform will continue to iterate rapidly. Google acknowledged what businesses see today will become very different from services and tools 90 days down the road. "That's good and bad," said Chris Copeland, CEO of GroupM Search, which is part of the WPP Group. "Quite frankly, I'm not sure what you see today is enough. It's difficult to build on a shifting platform."
Copeland wants to see more collaboration between Google and brands. A lack of tools and little notice to launch business pages continue as some of the major challenges seen by marketers. Waking up one morning to announce "okay, it's up and running, go," seems similar to kicking a bunch of businesses off the site at launch, he said. It's not the spirit of the collaborative social network.
And while major companies and small mom-and-pop businesses can now build a presence on Google+, the site still lacks backend features to support marketer and brand campaigns, as well as insight and direction from Google on how to best use Google+ tools.
Businesses will set up pages in Google+ in the beginning without fully understanding the influence from Google search results. Google will link in mobile, YouTube and other properties, Copeland said. That will change as marketers learn how creative they can become.
More than 1 billion posts are received and shared daily on Google+. Supporting the ability to share content, Ripples emerged late last month as one of the most interesting tools for Google+. Viewing the ripples of a public post allows users to gain insight into information that the social network collects, but does not typically share. The tool allows users to see who shared what with whom through a series of circles.
Google+ Ripples is still experimental, but marketers can find a public post on the social site and select "View Ripples." From there, marketers can replay its activity, zoom in on certain events, identify top contributors, and more.
The analytics features will remain light to start, but marketers can expect a series of tools in Google+ that tie into Google Analytics and Google AdWords. Look how long it took Google to build out data features in YouTube.