Finally, Google is now allowing businesses, brands and any non-human entity to participate in its Google+ social network, through new Google+ Pages that are launching today.
Businesses Weren’t Allowed, Initially
Businesses have wanted to be part of Google+ from the start. In fact, many businesses and brands made use of regular Google+ accounts as a way to participate on the service despite their non-human status.
However, in July, Google terminated any business accounts that it spotted, including one from Sesame Street, promising that formal business pages would come — and that they’d be worth waiting for.
Google+ Pages Now Welcome Businesses
Now businesses are being welcomed in, through the new Google+ Pages program. Beginning today, and rolling out over the next two days, businesses will be able to create Google+ pages for themselves, using the Create A Page tool.
Once you gain access, you’ll be asked to create a page in one of five categories:
- Local Business or Place
- Product or Brand
- Company, Institution or Organization
- Arts, Entertainment or Sports
Are you a local merchant already running a page for your company in Google Places? You need to do this in addition to maintaining that other page. Google tells me:
Currently, Place pages and Google+ Pages must be managed separately. A Place page provides information about a business and makes it easy for customers to find local businesses on Google Maps and local search; while a Google+ page provides business owners with additional ways to engage, build relationships and interact directly with customers.
Creating A Google+ Page
Here’s a look at the initial page creation form, which asks for basic information such as a brand name and a URL:
At first, whoever creates the page initially will also be the page administrator. No one else will be able to admin that page after them, at first. Nor can that page be transferred to someone else.
Multiple administrator support is promised in the near future, but until it arrives, it seems important that if your company has a social media manager, that person should be the one to create the account.
Unlike Facebook, there aren’t “vanity” URLs yet available that use a business name rather than a long string of number. The same issue is true of personal accounts. Google provided no update on when this might change.
Don’t like the name of your page? Unlike with Facebook, you can change that at any time. However, if you have verified status, doing this will cause you to lose verification, requiring that process to start again, Google told me.
“Acting” Like A Page
Similar to Facebook, even though you’ll access your page through a personal account, you’ll have the ability to choose whether you want to act as yourself or the business page, when on Google Plus.
You can do many of the same things that a personal account can do, including:
- Share photos
- Share videos
- Share links
- Conduct Hangouts
It doesn’t appear that there’s any support for automatically posting to a page, in the way people can using both native and third-party tools with Twitter and Facebook. That’s likely to come as part of a future Google+ API release. Google gave no further update on when this is coming.
Being Circled As A Business
Google has Google +1 buttons all over the web, but clicking on one of these buttons on a web site doesn’t cause a business to be followed within Google Plus. Instead, as with regular accounts, business pages have to be added to a Google+ circle.
It’s kind of confusing. Consider this business page for the X Games
See the two big arrows. The one pointing to the right is for a new +1 button count (more below) that people can push. But pushing that won’t follow the page. Instead, people have to push the “Add To Circles” button to follow the page (and that doesn’t automatically like or +1 the page).
Having said this, business pages will have something unique compared to regular pages — and overall Google +1 count that shows on their profile page, as the screenshot to the right shows.
See how there’s a “542,625 Have +1′ed this” section? This shows all the +1s that a site has earned on all their pages in total. After the regular circle counts are also shown.
Some big or well-known brands will also have Verified Name options, similar to how these work for people.
To encourage brands to get followed, Google is launching a new icon to let business pages encourage being followed, with badges — including one similar to Facebook’s “Facepile” badge, promised to be coming soon:
Direct Connect: Being Found In Search
Another new feature for businesses is the ability to have their pages found through “Direct Connect” in Google Search. This will happen for any business that Google determines is particularly relevant for a search, if someone searches for the business with a + symbol in front of its name:
If people select the Google+ Page, they’ll be taken directly to that Google+ Page, where they can then follow, if they want.
Google’s done a short video explaining how this works (my testing for pages like +Pepsi or +Google, where it’s supposed to work, don’t show that it has kicked in yet):
Making this feature possible is why Google somewhat controversially removed how the + command worked last month. But a Google spokesperson told me:
Even before Google+, we’d seen on one hand extremely limited usage of the plus operator, a fraction of a percent of all queries. And of that, the majoirty were using the plus operator incorrectly.
After Google+ itself launched, Google said even more people started using the + operator, but in the wrong way. So dropping it probably did make sense — though Google shouldn’t have done it so quietly, and without a blog post explaining the move, I’d say.
Businesses Already With Pages
As said, the new system is rolling out over the next two days. A small number of businesses were allowed to create pages early, which include:
Interestingly, Ford — which is one of the few businesses that were allowed to have “Test” business accounts — is not in the initial release of the new business pages. Google confirmed this to me and added that all these accounts would have to build followers from scratch, just like anyone else.
Google has a short video up about the new page:
MORE UPDATES ARE COMING. I’LL DROP THIS MESSAGE WHEN THE STORY IS FINISHED.