From the moment Google unveiled its social networking platform, Google+, marketers and brand managers have been asking, "When will brand pages be available?"
Google's answer is today...kind of.
(UPDATE: Pages are apparently opening up. Check out the Eloqua page, and follow us for future Google+ news and more.) There's a reason I hedge Google's claim that brand pages are open for business. While the search giant might be announcing the availability to launch a brand page, if you actually click on the "Create a Page" icon that is available on all live brand pages, there's a good chance you might see this:
I can't find any official word for a timeline of when this will be truly rolled out, but over at Search Engine Land Danny Sullivan says it should take place over the next two days.
Here's what we can tell from some early looks.
1. Creating a Page Looks Easy
As noted above, creating page seems like an easy task. Clicking the icon takes you to a site where you pick a category for the page: "Local Business or Place", "Product or Brand, Company", "Institution or Organization", "Arts, Entertainment or Sports", and the always elusive "Other".
After completing this step, you will have to agree to the terms of service and select a brand page name - which, unlike Facebook, can be changed. An important note is that currently you can't have multiple administrators to your page so you'll need to select a manager.
2. There Will Be Hangouts
Like a Facebook brand page, Google pages allow brands to share photos, updates and video. Another important note: people can +1 your brand on and off your page, but this doesn't mean they are following your page. To do that, fans will have to add your brand page to their circles, just like they do for personal accounts.
By far, the most exciting feature seems to be the advent of Google+'s Hangouts feature. This allows people or brand pages to create an online real-time video chat with many followers at once. (The Muppets are apparently holding one at 7:30 ET today.)
This provides a new level of interactivity between brands and their followers, setting the stage for product announcements, contests, conversations with executives and more.
3. Direct Tie in Google Search
Another cool feature is the addition of the + symbol in Google searches. Putting + sign before the name of a brand that has a business page in a Google search toolbar will take that person directly to that Google+ brand page. From there, it's an easy step for a person to add the brand to their Circles and begin following the brand. Clearly, this is one way Google is trying to own both search and social.
4. What's Missing
In a previous article we wrote about what Google+ needed to offer businesses, most social media experts agreed that Google needs to leverage its ability to provide in-depth analytics to brands, giving them the opportunity to measure how social actions lead to future buyer behaviors and purchase decisions. This, experts agreed, would help them compete with Facebook.
In my research I couldn't find any information on how, or even if, Google would tie its impressive search analytics capabilities to its social network. If that remains the case, it would seem like a missed opportunity to offer greater visibility into the potential ROI of social media. Let's hope that changes.
We'll keep updating you as we experiment and watch more brand pages pop up on Google+. Keep checking back or subscribe to the blog for updates. In meantime, have you seen any pages you liked? Have you created your own brand page? Tell us about it and share a link!