Google released Google+ Pages for brands publicly last night (South African time) to much excitement on the Web. Google+ has, until now, been reserved for humans posting as themselves and Google has been criticized for not allowing brands to create pages and for insisting that users use their real names and not pseudonyms (Google seems to have reversed course on this and is expected to announce support for pseudonyms soon). The elephant in the room has been brands’ inability to create a presence on the growing platform.
Google+ Pages have a number of similarities to personal profiles including their basic design and functionality. Businesses can publish posts, photos, videos, run Hangouts (a very appealing and engaging video conferencing solution) and participate in comment threads as the brand. I enjoy using Google+ and have seen some pretty high engagement levels there. It is a product designed for engagement.
That said, there are some very interesting differences between Pages and profiles which are pretty good for consumers weary of the constant flow of direct marketing material. Susan Beebe, a Dell Corporate PR and Social Business Strategist listed a number of differences in a post on Google+:
- Pages can’t add people to circles until the page is added first or mentioned.
- Pages can be made for a variety of different entities whereas profiles can only be made for people.
- The default privacy setting for elements on your page profile is public.
- Pages have the +1 button.
- Pages can’t +1 other pages, nor can they +1 stuff on the Web.
- Pages can’t play games.
- Pages don’t have the option to share to ‘Extended circles’.
- Pages don’t receive notifications via email, text, or in the Google bar.
- Pages can’t hangout on a mobile device.
- Local pages have special fields that help people find the business’ physical location.
Of these differences, the most significant difference for consumers is the first in that list: Pages can’t add people to circles until the page is added first or mentioned.
The reason this is so significant is that consumers must explicitly and specifically add brands to their circles (or, to use Twitter terminology, follow the brands) before those brands can publish posts targeted at those consumers. Until that point brands’ Pages remain publicly visible but their posts don’t enter consumers’ streams until they are followed. This model is similar to Twitter in that Twitter users won’t see brands’ tweets in their Twitter stream unless they follow the brand’s Twitter profile. Like Twitter is also appears that a brand could publish a post which tags a consumer not following the brand on Google+ and get their attention that way.
It certainly appears that Google is thinking about building a product for brands that doesn’t overpower consumers’ streams with marketing messaging although an option requiring that consumers add brands to their circles before they can be contacted by brands would protect consumers better.