The Google Plus team is still plugging away at the creation of brand pages for companies, and the service is still being rolled out to consumers, but that doesn’t mean businesses can’t start taking advantage of it.
Officially, you’re not supposed to set up a profile on Plus to represent a brand, even though a few companies have already done so. If you want to be daring and pull a Mashable, you can try, but we can’t promise smaller brands won’t get shut down for going against Google’s wishes.
Google Circles Are Business-Friendly
The very nature of Circles, Google’s approach to grouping social connections, makes it inherently more professional-friendly than Facebook, where divvying up one’s friends into groups is not quite as intuitive as Google Plus’s drag-and-drop mechanism. Right out of the box, you can identify people as acquantainces, friends, family or just somebody you’re following. Adding a circle for colleagues and professional connections only takes a few seconds.
In theory, this enables you to maintain a Facebook-style group of friends alongside a LinkedIn-style group of professional contacts without having the two worlds collide in any way you’re not comfortable with.
Videoconference With Colleagues Via Hangouts
Its name suggests something less formal, but there’s no reason that Hangouts couldn’t be used for group videoconferencing for professional purposes. As it continues to build out the business-focused feature set of Plus, we could imagine Google building in more full-fledged online meeting functionality, perhaps with a scheduling mechanism that integrates with Google Calendar.
On last week’s episode of This Week in Google, Jeff Jarvis and Gina Trapani discussed how brands could use Hangouts for customer service as well, offering consumers an opportunity to join a group chat about products and issues they may be having.
In addition to group video chats, Google Plus comes integrated with Google Chat much like Gmail, which is another opportunity for team communication.
Integration With Existing Google Tools
For businesses who already use things like Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar, the inevitable integration between these tools and Google Plus is attractive. As these integrations begin to roll out, Plus may well become something akin to what Wave was supposed to be.
It may be some time before Google Apps gets its own version of Plus, since they’re still rolling out the consumer version, but if and when it arrives, expect tight integration with the suite of productivity apps you already use.
The demand for Plus to integrate with Google Apps “is the single biggest bit of feedback we got,” said Bradley Horowitz, VP of Product for Google Apps, on This Week in Google. Horowitz didn’t give a timeline, but assured viewers that it’s something they’re working on.
Update: At least one user has already seen evidence of Google Plus becoming available for Google Apps users, according to a post on Google Operating System. Google’s John Constigan said that Plus for Google Apps accounts “should be available in the coming months.” Another developer has discovered hints in Plus’s source code that point to more full-fledged meeting functionality, including video and voice conferencing, screen sharing, document sharing and a whiteboard feature.
Have you had a chance to play around with Google Plus yet? What are some items on your wish list that might make it more brand-friendly?