First Look at Google Company Pages
Google has recently opened up its Facebook-(not yet) killer Google+ (aka Google Plus) to company profile pages. Actually you can create a number of different "I'm not a human" pages. Are you a rock band? Want to set up a page devoted to a specific product? Want to make a tribute page to the flying spaghetti monster? No problem. No more having to try and setup a human profile with a jury rigged name. So, Mr. Coca Cola you can now create a product page.
To get started, log into your normal Google+ account. At the bottom of the right panel you will see a Create a Google+ Page link. Click on that to get yourself started.
You'll be prompted to setup some basic classification information. My first problem with the company page setup is the classification. The topic classifications seem over broad. Computers and Hardware doesn't narrow it down. There are no subcategories and there's no way to classify yourself in more than one area. BlueCamroo, for example, is a "computer" company but our software is a business service.
Does the age filter imply Google will allow adult content? According to help page:
When you set up your page and choose an age category, interactive features that require the user to be logged in will be limited to users that are that minimum age or older. Keep in mind that all pages are public and using the age selector does not affect visibility of the page or content. Make sure that you choose a minimum age category selection that’s appropriate for your page.
This sounds like anyone will still be able to visit your page, even if it's flagged as adults only. However, you might be able to create apps that can read the adult flag and prevent under age users from using the apps.
After this you can setup your about page, adding your company logo. Under your company name you enter a brief description. Google suggests about 10 words. Be succinct. When people link to your company page, this description will be used in a wall post:
As my screen capture implies, unlike Facebook pages (what they used to call fan pages), there is no way to specify a customized URL. Not sure why Google didn't provide that option from the get go. It's quite nice to access, say, BlueCamroo by typing facebook.com/bluecamroo.
After setup you're taken to a wall page that looks a lot like your normal Google+ wall. The chief difference is you'll notice your Circles have new names.
Google has suggested a sort of hierarchy but you're free to edit and delete these circles and create your own. Circles are one of the key differences between a normal human profile and a company profile. Your human profile, you're allowed to add other users to your circles. However businesses can't add users to profiles until a user has added the business to the profile. The user has to open the door first.
There's some solid logic behind this. When another user adds you, you get a notification. Unscrupulous businesses (and there will be plenty flocking to Google+) could promote themselves simply by adding thousands of people, generating these notifications. Users might soon be flooded by things like "XXX Online Pharmacy has added you!" "Credit Repair Corp has added you!" etc.
Circles, if you'll recall, are used when adding a wall post, a photo, a video, etc. Upon adding, you immediately flag which circles this information can be shared with. On your company page it's very easy to make sure non-customers don't see things like bug fix announcements or links to product updates.
The biggest drawback to these circles is there is no "Administrator" circle. You can't add other coworkers and give them the power to manage the page. I think this is a critical flaw and makes Google+'s business profiles dangerous if only one user can be the administrator of the profile. You need to think hard about who will use his/her Google+ profile to create the page and then operate the page via their personal login. If this person were to ever leave your company, there appears to be no way to transfer ownership or add additional admin users. Facebook pages definitely allow you to do this.
Beyond the unidirectional nature of Circle management, a business profile page isn't really much different from a a real human page. For example, uploading photos is identical to the real human version.
Well, we have Google+ which is still trying to find a way to justify itself being an alternative to Facebook. But we still have businesses trying to justify investing time and resources to keep an active Facebook page going. I'm sure everyone is going to be thinking Google+'s business pages won't take off until there's a rich ecosystem of third party apps but I don't think you really need these things.
You have to take a hard look at yourself and determine what kind of company you are. Facebook works well for companies who have products and services integrated into the lives of the social networking generation. Check out how smart phone custom skin maker GelaSkins uses of its Facebook page.
There are no bells and whistles. No tricks. No marketing come on. GelaSkins just provides a wall for customers to post their own photos of how they've skinned their own media devices. Company staff interact with wall users. Simple, instant community.
What a company page does is it allows a small company to offload the chore of having to try and setup some kind of company site-based system that provides two way interactivity and community building. For users who like the page, it gets the company's message on a person's Facebook wall, the single most valuable piece of internet real estate after, maybe, being able to run a banner ad under the search box on google.com (you can't actually buy ad space there but imagine if you could!)
Right now, a Google+ wall isn't hot property. It would not hurt, however, if you staked your company name on Google+ right now, before someone else scoops it or a disgruntled customer grabs it. As I've argued a couple times on the Roo Blog, stake out your territory now on Google+ in any capacity. Google has the time, money, and reach into the mobile sphere to grow this social networking platform. Remember, Microsoft had a long history of being second to the market with a product that seemed too little, too late, and entirely laughable. However, it was always able to leverage its dominance over the operating system and its deep, deep pockets to out compete the competitor. WordPerfect no doubt laughed when it saw Microsoft Word for DOS. Netscape laughed when it saw IE 1.0. Apple laughed when it saw Windows 3.1.
Facebook is probably still laughing but in the looming post-PC world where Google controls the mobile platform, I would hope some of that laughter is nervous laughter.
(BTW happy Remembrance Day and deepest deepest apologies to veterans for celebrating 11-11-11 11:11 am briefly as Nigel Tufnel Day.)