Yesterday, Google opened up their Google+ social network to businesses through Pages. Just as Facebook transitioned from friends hanging out to friends hanging out while liking various products and services, members of Google+ can now virtually partake in everything from Burberry to the Dallas Cowboys.
Google has a clear and successful model to emulate in Facebook’s own business pages, after all. At worst Google+ Pages would be a clone. At best they would be Something New and Exciting. Yet Google+ Pages are neither. "Noncommittal" is the only trait that’s come to truly define Google+, and that posture is going to be hard on businesses who think Google+ is the next frontier. Here’s why.
The Admin Issue
"Everyone's clamoring to get in on it, because the community is big, but it isn’t set up in a way that brands can really easily jump in," says Blake Cahill, president of Banyan Branch, a social media agency with clients like Disney. "At this point, it’s certainly not Facebook."
While a Facebook fan page can be set up with a multitude of administrators allowing a large team to manage communications with ease, Google+ Pages are tied to a single user’s account. So even if you worked at a multibillion dollar international corporation like Nike, one person in the company would set up the Nike Google+ Page under their own account, and everyone would need to use that account as a portal.
"Unless one person is managing all your community on multiple platforms, you kind of can’t manage it," says Cahill.
Google can handle multiple log-ins in their sleep; they’ve proven it across countless apps. It’s almost as if Google is purposefully tying to limit access of the industrial machine.
Business Won’t Like +1
Yet the problem runs a lot deeper than managing admin. Google+’s fundamental consumer action model is far more limited than Facebook’s, too.
For the everyday consumer to interact with a brand on Facebook, the only point of entry is the "Like" button. It’s as simple to contract and as long lasting as any parasite.
"Like" a page, and you’ll not only be marked as part of their fan base, but you’ll be subscribed to see their updates.
Google+ rips the "Like" button into two devastatingly separate entities. Show up at a corporate page, and you can give it a +1. That’s simple, it’s the digital equivalent of giving a storefront a thumbs-up while driving by.
To see a company’s updates, a consumer will need to actually add them to a circle, which of course beckons the question, just how intimate do I want to be to Glade air fresheners? Can I really call them a friend? They sure aren’t family. Should I make another circle for Products I Purchase Every Two to Three Months With Clever Commercials?
Google Shows a Bit of Humanity?
Call it a hunch, but I suspect we’ll see a lot of people +1’ing their favorite products, and that’s it.
Yet maybe, if we can all be a bit less cynical for a moment, we can view Google+ Pages in a different light, not a rushed misstep but a purposeful stumble. A feint, if you will.
Think about it. Google touts your Friends circle as "Your real friends. The ones you feel comfortable sharing private details with."
Google+ wants to put meaningful, noncommittal human contact back into social networking, to filter out the weird high school acquaintance who became a "friend" 15 years later, to protect grandma from a particularly atheistic grandson rant or, just maybe, to shield all these casual users living their lives from the wide-eyed, Zoloft-fueled PR happy voice that has become every single brand on social networks.
Whether businesses like it or not, Google knows: Meaningful interaction isn’t eating Pizza Hut and subsequently marrying it.
[Image: Flickr user Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos]