Google, which launched its social network 100 days ago, is
adding a feature that puts another Facebook feature directly in its
crosshairs: Google+ Pages.
Google+ Pages are the approximate equivalent of Facebook's fan
pages, which have become central to the strategies of brands from
Starbucks to L'Oreal to Pampers over the past several years.
Marketers have spent heavily both to create pages on Facebook, and
in their unending quest for "fans" that declare their allegiance to
Google's Pages will be open to a much wider array of businesses,
organizations and brands than on Facebook. Anyone will be able to
create a page for anything. Google will also make it tougher for
operators of those pages -- be they brands, organizations, sports
teams or clubs -- to add their equivalent of a fan to what Google
calls "Circles." And Google+ users will have to opt in to a page to
receive any sort of communication from the brand.
Pages are for anything, whereas profiles are for people," Google
VP Bradley Horowitz told Ad Age . "None of these pages can interact
with you unless you invite them into your life."
Google's +1 button will not automatically subscribe anyone to a
brand page. Rather, Google is introducing a new button that brands
or publishers can use to allow visitors to join a circle in one
In addition, Google is introducing a new search command that
will act as a shortcut to joining a circle, in hopes of making the
action as natural as a search query. If users type "+pepsi" into
the search box, that command can automatically subscribe them to
PepsiCo's Google+ page.
The first time a user tries a "+" search, Google will ask if
they want to subscribe directly this way. "It's a setting users can
change at any time," Mr. Horowitz said.
Unlike Facebook, Google won't attempt to derive any direct ad
revenue from Pages, though they will be tightly integrated into
search, Google's ad products and analytics. There will be no direct
way to "buy" new fans through advertising, other than, say, a
search or display ad outside of Google+. Google expects that having
businesses in Google+ will enhance its other businesses, such as
search and mobile advertising.
In addition to big brands it hopes to attract, Google wants
small businesses that may or may not have websites to use its G+
"Pages" as their default presences. While Google isn't announcing
it today, pages will soon be location-aware, allowing local
businesses to send offers and deals to mobile phones.
Kevin Barenblat, CEO of social-marketing firm ContextOptional,
doesn't expect the addition of Pages to diminish marketer
enthusiasm for other platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or
LinkedIn. "One of the opportunities Google+ Pages offers to
marketers is another prominent home on the social web," he
Most big brands already spend plenty of ad dollars on Google,
mainly on search, and much more than they currently spend on
Facebook. "One of the great things about search is it captures
people as they are looking to purchase," Mr. Barenblat said. "But
this is an opportunity to catch them earlier in the decision-making
As has happened on Facebook, both Google and brands face a
learning process in terms of how best to use the new tools. Google
is allowing brands to create any number of pages; BMW could, for
example, create a separate page for each model of car. They are
also allowing page administrators to put just 5,000 people in
"circles," meaning most of the pages' communications will be
accessibly by anyone.
Google will allow Pages to have "Hangouts," basically
one-to-many conversations in a defined group.
When Google+ launched initially, hundreds of brands attempted to
set up pages immediately, even though the service had no users. It
was a sign of how deeply social-media strategies are now embedded
in the marketing plans for brands. Going forward, however, brands
will allocate resources based on impact, and Google+ still has 40
million users compared to Facebook's 800 million-plus .
"We knew brands would come when there were users we did not
expect to have this many users this fast," Mr. Horowitz said.
Michael covers the intersection of technology, media and marketing, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and AOL. He edits the Digital section of AdAge.com and oversees editions of Ad Age's Digital Conference in New York and San Francisco. He joined Advertising Age in 2008 after working at Silicon Alley Insider, Variety, Reuters and The Industry Standard.