Soon after the launch of Google+ came the inevitable next question: When can brands set up pages there, as they have successfully on Facebook? Now, an answer: in about two weeks.
Soon after Google launched its most ambitious foray into social media, a number of companies have already set up hacked pages on the service, most notably Ford Motor Co. In response, Google has set up an application page where firms can apply to become part of Google's initial test phase for business pages. Most likely, Google's forthcoming branded accounts will be somewhat similar to Facebook's company pages, which have become the dominant and driving force behind that social network's advertising revenue.
Meanwhile, Google said it can barely keep up with requests. Christian Oestlien, the lead product manager for social advertising at Google, talked to Ad Age about how the company plans to bring in big companies into its budding social network.
Ad Age : So it turns out plenty of companies are interested in setting up a business page on Google+, so much so that you're having to turn off some of these pages. What's the plan?
Christian Oestlien: We're basically nine days in to what you could describe as a multi-year project. We've gotten several thousands of applications to be in the test group since we opened it up last night.
Ad Age : Ford is one of them, and it appears to be very active already. Are you asking it to take down its page?
Mr. Oestlien: We're positively overwhelmed by how quickly Ford has become involved with the project. They're doing to some incredibly cool stuff like the "hangout" they're doing this afternoon with their customers. It's the kind of stuff we're looking to test .
Ad Age : So it seems Ford will be able to maintain its page and will be part of the test ?
Mr. Oestlien: Yes. There are a subset of businesses that have been actively involved since the start -- including Ford.
Ad Age : Which other big companies have been active on the site?
Mr. Oestlien: MTV . Some charities in Europe, and, of course, some of the online tech blogs like Mashable.
Ad Age : So will these guys also be part of the test ?
Mr. Oestlien: Not just companies that have already set up pages. But also a lot of great businesses like Dell. They don't have page up, but they've been hosting hangouts with our user-base.
Ad Age : The hangout -- where you have multiple users video chatting -- appears to be the signature feature of Google+.
Mr. Oestlien: The hangout is one of those things where it's really just the beginning in the potential ways it can be used. For companies to be able to talk literally face-to-face to their customers on a regular basis will be incredibly powerful.
Ad Age : At the moment, despite the success of Ford and others, Google is taking down pages that aren't real people, correct?
Mr. Oestlien: Our operations team is actively going through and actively taking profiles down.
Ad Age : So how will you evaluate the applications?
Mr. Oestlien: We want to include everything from small businesses to individual contractors all the way up to the largest brand names in the world. What we're really looking for is companies that on the one hand have a real rich history of being active in the social sphere, brands that have strong, loyal audiences and are proactive and engaging and who want to spread it out a little more.
Ad Age : When you say, "rich history of being active in the social sphere," sounds to me like you'll be looking at how many Facebook "likes" a company has.
Mr. Oestlien: We'd like to see they've been really engaged with their audience with all the social sources out there. Also brands that are active on YouTube. What we want to do is avoid a land-grab situation -- that 's why this is very much a test phase.
Ad Age : You opened up applications last night. When will you close off applications?
Mr. Oestlien: Early next week.
Ad Age : No hard date?
Mr. Oestlien: There's no hard date, but most likely early next week. We already have thousands of applications.
Ad Age : When will you decide which companies are in the test phase?
Mr. Oestlien: In the next two weeks we want to be able to reach out to the test partners. We want to move very fast. Our users are incredibly fast, and we have a responsibility to be fast.
Ad Age : How many test partners will you include?
Mr. Oestlien: In the neighborhood of a few hundred, and if that 's successful we'll ramp up from there.
Ad Age : Even though Google+ has yet to scale, since it's closed off to beta testers for the moment, I would think a company or brand would be interested in having a strong presence on Google+ as it might affect how they may show up on Google search. Will it affect how companies show up in search results?
Mr. Oestlien: The main way we are looking for people to use social to empower search results is in the +1 button.
Ad Age : But nothing from Google+?
Mr. Oestlien: Not for search. But ultimately, we want to use Google+ across every Google property. How or when is all to be determined.