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Google + – brand pages have arrived

Penetrations at 40 million (worldwide) and with Google+ still being pushed at us with a pretty hefty PR campaign and an assault from some celebs (Britney Spears and Will.i.am), and now from brands, it appears that this social network from Google is here for at least the short term when consumers will ultimately decide who survives.

The brand pages posed an opportunity for Google to give a superior offering to Facebook. At first glance they’ve failed to deliver with no unique functionality that a brand couldn’t be leveraging in another social channel.

So what can a brand do. …

The same as the rest of us. They can upload photos, videos, status updates, start a hangout (The muppets launched one at 4:30PST today) but the issue still is the lack of consumer penetration which means the numbers just aren’t there. All of this is evident from the small followings that brands are picking up, with even Kermit the frog failing to achieve big numbers!

There is also the key issue that any brand needs to consider ” How does a consumer truly see me”.

The whole premise of Google is based on circles. You HAVE to place anyone you want to follow into a circle.  Consider this…

Your mum joins – you add her to your family circle. Your Best mate joins – you add her to friends. A one night stand joins – you create and add them to a circle called “Ex-boyfs”. You see Toyota and create a circle called…. “Brands”.

In no way will brands be able to connect in the same emotive way because consumers will simply put you in a sales / marketing / product / brand bucket. It’s auto-pilot and that’s the whole point of circles. You don’t have to think to use it, it’s intuitive. And intuitive isn’t great when you’re trying to be disruptive or get under the skin of the consumer who’s given you a “marketing shit” label. Yes – until people have organised their feeds you will show up in their central thread but, after then, you are unlikely even to get exposed to your consumers updates and, be honest, how interesting is that? (I’m sure Toyota isn’t interested that I’m drinking a cuppa and eating a hobnob? Nor can glean any insight from it) Where as Facebook clearly got consumer penetration and it then took a while for brands to get on board, brands and consumers are adopting + in tandem and, as yet, the benefit (or opportunity) for brands seems to be limited.

So what should brands consider as useful for Google+ right now….

– Inexpensive market research. The ability to recruit individuals for online, Live streamed, focus groups using hangouts – despite only 9 people being able to interact at any one time, this free service definately has value for quick and fast research.

– Advocacy programmes: Being able to classify, and then market to consumers, based on actions you want them to perform and even talk directly to them – truly being able to differentiate your brand fans from brand consumers. Only snag is you have to know who they are and then create the relevent circles!

– YouTube: It’s massive and it’s inevitably going to have to be THE channel for Google getting this to all work. Video content (and capabilities) are far superior to Facebook’s offering and, as Google+ continues to evolve, and becomes integrated into YouTube’s service, it will become critical to how consumers adopt and use the service.

– Watch and learn: Yes, it’s going to get press but, at the moment it hasn’t got the numbers or reach. A bit of “watch and learn” and a slice of budget pushed aside for if it does hit mass in 2012 is the cautious marketers option….

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