Google+ open to and for business

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Businesses can add potential customers to various circles and address them in a segmented way

Google has launched Google+, the business-friendly side of its social network and a key way for the company to compete with Facebook.

Google+ pages are similar to personal Google+ profiles. They let people engage with a business much as they would with anyone else over the network. From the business’ side, the system makes it possible to add potential customers to various circles and address them in a segmented way.

“For you and me, this means we can now hang out live with the local bike shop, or discuss our wardrobe with a favourite clothing line, or follow a band on tour. Google+ Pages give life to everything we find in the real world,” Google engineering chief Vic Gundotra said in a blog post. “And by adding them to circles, we can create lasting bonds with the pages (and people) which matter most.”

There are some differences between personal profiles and Google+. For example, pages cannot add people to circles until they themselves have been added first. The default privacy setting for pages is ‘public’, although posts can be made private.

Pages also do not provide activity notifications via email, text or the Google bar. However, a business can add a Google+ badge to its site, which allows people to add its page to their circles without leaving the site.

The main rival to Google+ is Facebook, which still offers a much larger audience to business users, but Google+ makes it possible to conduct multi-person businessto- customer videochats, using the Hangouts feature. Crucially, Google has also closely integrated its version of the business pages idea with its search engine.

Google+ pages show up in search results, but they also benefit from a feature called Direct Connect, Gundotra explained. “Maybe you’re watching a movie trailer, or you just heard your favourite band is coming to town. In both cases you want to connect with them right now, and Direct Connect makes it easy — even automatic,” he said. “Just go to Google and search for [+], followed by the page you’re interested in. We’ll take you to their Google+ page, and if you want, we’ll add them to your circles.”

At the moment, Direct Connect is only available for a limited subset of pages, such as +Google and +Pepsi and according to Google’s support page for the feature, not every Google+ page will be able to use Direct Connect.

Google also looks for a link between the business’s Google+ page and main website, so inserting a Google+ badge onto the main site is another way to increase the chances of Direct Connect working. There is also a specific type of Google page called a ‘local page’. In common with the free Google Maps listings for small businesses, this is quite easy to set up and includes a map of the business’s location as well as details of address, phone number and hours of operation.

Gundotra suggested more is to come: “With Google+, we strive to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. “The initial launch of Google+ Pages brings us a little bit closer, but we’ve lots of improvements planned, and miles to go before we sleep.”

To find out more or to sign up to Google+ visit