After getting the boot from Google+ this summer, brands and businesses are allowed back on the site as of today.
In a blog post this afternoon, Google introduced Google+ Pages, which gives brands, business, and other organizations a public presence on the social networking site and a way to connect with customers and fans.
When Google launched its social network Google+ this summer, brands quickly hopped on, using consumer profiles to create pages for businesses. In less than a week, Google started shutting down nonconsumer accounts, saying it was planning to release a marketer-friendly experience.
Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product for Google+, told Adweek that the introduction of Google+ Pages means, “The people who we kicked out and have been waiting in the wings—the brands and bands and organizations and entities—are now welcome back in our system.”
“We did something rather rude, we kicked these brands off 100 days ago. We noticed that they were taking up residence in the user space and, rather abruptly and rudely, said, ‘We have something else in mind for you. We didn’t anticipate this much interest this fast, please wait’,” he continued. “We’ve developed something that we think is good for the brands and good for the users.”
Open to all kinds of organizations, from big brands to small businesses to local clubs, Google+ Pages resembles the consumer profiles already used by 40 million Google+ members. “We’ve developed something that we think is good for the brands and good for the users," said Horowitz.
With Google+ Circles, brands can segment their followers, so that they can target VIP or repeat customers, for example, with specific messages. With Hangouts, Horowitz says, brands can put a face to their businesses and host conversations with customers and fans. The Pages also exists on Mobile and aggregate all Web-wide +1 activity related to the brand.
But, Horowitz emphasizes that the Pages include a few key differences. Brands can’t add people to Circles until their pages are added first, default privacy settings for Page elements are public, pages have a +1 button and can’t be shared with “extended circles” (or circles of circles). Brands can also place new icons and badges on their websites to help direct traffic to their Google+ Pages.
Google+ Pages also links up with AdWords search and display campaigns, so that brands can easily manage their accounts for different Google products, he says. For example, through a brand’s AdWords account, it can integrate the products so that +1s on brand Pages and ads are counted together.
To make sure that consumers reach the Google+ sites for brands—and not imposters—Google has also created a verification program primarily for global or well-known brands. It will include a small number of brands at launch but roll out to more businesses over time, Google said.
While Horowitz said that “nothing has excited me more, to date, than the launch [of Google+],” he added that the “most interesting” new feature is Direct Connect.
Like a search shortcut for brands on Google+, Direct Connect lets users simply type in a brand’s name after the “+” sign in a Google search box to get a direct path to its Google+ page. For example, after typing “+Pepsi” into a search box, users will get the option to add Pepsi to their accounts and then be taken straight to Pepsi’s Google+ Page.
At launch, Google said Direct Connect would be available to “handfuls” of named partners. But once the launch takes place, the company said, it will be able to turn on the feature after eligible brands, businesses, and organizations create Google+ Pages and link them to their websites. (Eligibility is determined algorithmically, based on signals that indicate a page’s relevance and popularity, according to Google.)
Since its launch more than 100 days ago, Google+ has attracted 40 million users, who have uploaded about 3.4 billion photographs, and it has added more than 100 new features.
But in recent months, many industry observers have noted that traffic and interest on the site seems to have fallen off considerably. In early October, analytics firm Chitika said that while traffic to Google+ surged when it opened up to all users about a month ago, traffic quickly fell by 60 percent.
When Adweek asked about unique visitors to the site, Google declined to share details. But in a VentureBeat article last week, Horowitz responded to questions about whether the site is a “ghost town” by saying, “I don’t blame the pundits. They’re not privy to our long-term strategies.”
In that article, he said that Google+ is less of a distinct social network than “a mode of usage of Google.”
In Google’s last earnings call, CEO Larry Page said, “We’ve shipped the +, and now we’re going to ship the Google part.” It looks like Google+ is the latest example of that.