Will Google+ Pages Quit Flirting And Get Down To Business?

We all assume Google+ wants to marry with big business, but maybe they prefer a casual relationship.


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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]

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach