Google+ to Businesses: Wait a Bit

A company is not a "he" or a "she," which is one of the reasons why Google is asking businesses to hold off using their new social network, Google+. Now in a field test and currently intended for consumers, Google+ recently asked Ford to indicate its gender when that company was setting up a page.

Google said a version of Google+ for companies is being developed for Google Apps. In a post on the company blog, advertising lead Christian Oestlien wrote Wednesday that "some really great companies" have been starting to use the social network. "But," he added, "we know our product as it stands is not optimally suited to their needs."'

'An Optimal Experience'

Oestlien added that users communicate with other users differently than they do with brands, and the company intends to "create an optimal experience for both." A business-oriented Google+ is expected later this year.

Some tests will be conducted over the next few months with selected marketing partners, in which Google will be looking to find out the effect that the Google+ experience might have on brands. Companies seeking to participate can also sign up through a Web form.

Oestlien said that Google+ for businesses will include "rich analytics and the ability to connect that identity to other parts of Google that businesses might use on a daily basis," such as Google's ad network, AdWords. Currently, in addition to business-specific interactions that the search giant wants to include, Google Profiles -- a requirement for using Google+ -- is not compatible with Google Apps.

Ford's current page on Google+ looks like a personal user profile page. Ford Europe has been trying out a contest on Google+, where users are asked to write the best caption for an image. The winner, determined by voting, received the Dirt 3 game for the Xbox 360 game console. About 80 users posted comments relating to the test contest.

'Abandoned Their Own Web Sites'

As with Google+ for consumers, Google+ for businesses is competing with Facebook. The world's largest social networking site with over half a billion subscribers, Facebook has had business-specific pages for a while. These Facebook Pages are widely used by companies, as part of experiments or sustained social networking campaigns.

Andrew Frank, Research Director for the Gartner Group, noted that "a lot of businesses obviously are putting a lot of attention and money into trying to figure out how to interact with prospects and customers" through social networks.

He said that Facebook has been successful in attracting businesses, so much so that "some businesses have all but abandoned their own Web sites in favor of emphasizing their Facebook pages," which exist within that social network's enormous community of groups of friends. This "huge embrace by marketers" of social networking, Frank said, is still being assessed in terms of its effectiveness -- including the determination of what metrics to use.

Frank said that he expects businesses to "keep an open mind" about Google+, adding that "the marketing money is there if Google call pull off" an effective business orientation.