After only its first week, the infant service had everybody talking about how its late but bombastic entrance would affect the social networking space. Even more astonishing, many had already began discussing how Google+ could be used for businesses, in spite of the fact that it had hardly opened to individual users at that stage. Brand successes on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter had trained the most social media savvy among us to naturally think forward to the day when businesses would be able to take advantage of Google+.
Well, the wait is over.
Yesterday, Google announced the international rollout of Google+ Pages, with brands like Angry Birds, Pepsi, and Toyota among the handful of launch partners already using the service.
Any local business, brand, or other organization can create their page here. Here’s the Hearsay Social Google+ Page. And here’s an example of a Google+ Page from one of Google’s launch partners:
“For businesses and brands, Google+ pages help you connect with the customers and fans who love you,” writes Vic Gundotra, SVP of Engineering, in the announcement. “Not only can they recommend you with a +1, or add you to a circle to listen long-term. They can actually spend time with your team, face-to-face-to-face. All you need to do is start sharing, and you’ll soon find the super fans and loyal customers that want to say hello.”
Gundotra hints at some possible use cases for Google+, which won’t exactly mirror what we’ve already seen on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but he doesn’t really go into too much detail. Here I’ve outlined the top five things that the biggest brands must be doing on Google+ once they’ve set up their Pages.
- Customer service: Airline customers will always need to complain, clothing retail shoppers will always want to hear about new trends, and insurance company clients will always be looking for the best rates… and social media has cemented its role as the number one media for individuals to express those needs.
It’s for all these reasons and many more that Google+ will rival Twitter as a nexus for big brands and businesses to respond to the customer’s voice, whether it takes the form of lofty praise or an emotional complaint. Not just a generic hub for customer service, however, the highly engaged community of Google+ will naturally lend itself to a more advanced form of customer service, which leads us to…
- Customer collaboration: Think of this as customer service 2.0. Why only engage with customers and fans reactively when it’s now so simple to communicate with them proactively? The Dallas Cowboys are already doing this on their Google+ page, asking fans what they think of the football team’s new running back. Anderson Cooper 360 also delivered a call to action to his audience by asking for opinions on the just-issued Conrad Murray verdict.
Even those examples are just scratching the surface of what’s possible here. Maybe Ford could host regular Hangouts (live video conferences) with fans, as they did back in July, to talk candidly about their feedback on the design changes coming to next year’s electric vehicles.
- Rewards program: Digging deeper into the customer base, businesses could make circles for the most important customers, like brand evangelists or frequent buyers. There’s really nothing more magical to a marketer than a brand evangelist (like @VaBeachKevin for Adobe) who promotes a product or service simply because they love it. If Adobe were to create a circle including its evangelists like @VaBeachKevin, then it could strategically opt to share exciting upcoming announcements or new features. Or they could gain access to exclusive promotions and discounts.
The same obviously applies to frequent buyers. A business could create one catch-all circle called “VIPs” or “MVPs” with the best repeat buyers, making it a breeze to share promotions with that select group of individuals. The possibilities here are really endless: think of an airline creating a series of circles (Platinum/Gold/Silver, AAA/AA/A classes, etc.) to enable multiple tiers of promotions depending on the customer’s value to the organization.
- Market segmentation: Then there’s the basic biographical information like gender, hometown, employment, and education, the bare bones stuff that marketers and advertisers already enjoy having access to on Facebook (for users who choose to share that info). On Google+, though, Circles could go a long way. Imagine a beer brand like Corona blasting out two different campaigns, one for the male demographic and one for the female demographic.
- Internal social network: Perhaps the biggest way businesses could use Google+ is as an internal social network. For example, if I were to add all of my company’s employees to a circle called “Hearsay Social,” it would be a breeze sharing internal information with them and only them. While some enterprise users might already be using internal collaboration platforms like Yammer or Chatter (by Salesforce), Google Apps users could easily opt to use Google+ as their official inside network instead.
We’ve all heard before that there’s no one-size-fits-all social media strategy, and the same will apply now that Google+ business profiles have rolled out.
We’re very excited that organizations now have yet another social network to tap into. If and when the Google+ API for Business Pages becomes available, we’ll make sure our customers will be able to leverage the service. Again, please circle the Hearsay Social Google+ Page and we’ll be sure to circle you back!