If you're a business that uses social networking, it's time to add Google+ to your campaigns. On Monday, the software giant said commercially oriented Web pages on its service were open for business.
Using Google+ Pages, companies can deliver content, build a community and reinforce a brand. Google said 20 businesses, including Macy's and Pepsi, have set up company pages in its trial period, and the service is now being made available to other businesses. Previously only individuals could set up a page.
The '+ Brand' Badge
Other business-based pages currently include CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Angry Birds, Burberry, Dallas Cowboys, Good Morning America, The Muppets, Toyota, and Zen Bikes.
On the Official Google Blog, Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra wrote that Google+ Pages now allow members to "hang out live with the local bike shop, or discuss our wardrobe with a favorite clothing line, or follow a band on tour."
Customers and fans visiting a company's or product's page can recommend it with a +1, or add the page to his or her circle. A +1 is the Google equivalent of Facebook's Like button, and a circle is a user's own set of relationships, enabling direct conversation between circle members.
Bradley Horowitz, Google+ vice president for products, told The New York Times Monday that he expects to see a "+ brand" badge in corporate advertising and products. This would include, he said, a + Pepsi on every one of its soda cans and in its TV spots, along with other social media references, such as the Twitter hashtag, plus, of course, the old-fashioned Web site address. As with Facebook's corporate pages, Google will be able to provide the demographics of visitors to + Pages.
Gundotra also noted that potential customers can reach company pages on Google+ via its search engine, and then add them to their networking circle. One way to promote that, of course, is to make those pages available to Google search, and they will come up as part of the results when the brand is searched.
The other is through a new feature called Direct Connect. A user searches for a company or a band, but with a + before the name. Thus, + Angry Birds takes the user directly to that game's Google+ page, and lets a user add it to their circles. Currently, Direct Connect is still being rolled out, and doesn't yet work for every Google+ page, nor can every user access Direct Connect. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it would add these capabilities over time.
Businesses started using Google+ from the beginning in June, but the software giant removed businesses from regular accounts until now, when it could set up pages designed for businesses.
Google+ opened its social network to any user in September, following a field trial of less than 90 days. To date, the company said, more than 40 million users have signed up for the service -- a huge wave of membership, but one that is still small compared with Facebook's membership of more than 800 million users.