Brands who 'get' Google+

When Google+ recently opened its doors to brands, companies scrambled to put up their pages. 

SocialTimes has reported that around 61 percent of the top brands have created Google+ pages.

Unfortunately, even behemoth companies are reporting mixed reviews, boasting only meager followings.

A BrightEdge study of the world’s top 100 brands that recently was reported on by SocialTimes found “a collective total of all of these brands’ fans on Google+ was only around 148,000 while their collective total of Facebook fans was a whopping 300 million.”

What’s happening on Google+ is expected to grow and continue. But what companies plan to do with Google+ remains to be seen.

I checked out dozens of brands that I personally love. Roughly half had a presence, (thank you for joining, Etsy), and most look like brochure pages.

Many brands barely have scratched the surface in engaging with consumers with some companies still spinning their wheels on Twitter. So, new chapters in social media may have to wait.

“Google+ is all about interaction and engagement,” said Josh Harcus, director of business development with Say It Social, a social media strategy agency that recently was acquired by CrushIQ. “Hangouts are hands down the best feature on Google+. You can run a meeting … and it works well when you’re speaking because everyone’s voice can be heard.” 

Some of the company standouts on Google+ so far include Burberry and the plethora of news agencies there. Harcus said he’s already circled roughly 30 news organizations.

Intel also has jumped into the Google+ waters and seems to be doing swimmingly.

“We really felt that one of the unique features of Google+ was circles, and we wanted to take advantage of that,” said Jennifer Lashua, social media strategist with Intel and its Social Media Center of Excellence. “We made our circles public, created a photo album … we’re asking people to indicate their preference by +1ing their favorite photo.”

Intel began with five circles covering different areas: Technology Enthusiast, Friends, Newsroom, Life at Intel, and IT Experts. Through these circles, consumers engage with Intel, discussing what they would like to see more of. The circles also mean consumers won’t be bombarded with posts in other areas that they’re less interested in.

“We built our page by letting people opt in to different circles,” Lashua said. “The Tech Enthusiast circle is our biggest circle. It helps us to provide content that’s better aligned with what our followers want to hear about.”

Intel currently is working on getting a verification link – a feature that large businesses can apply for. 

Tae Kim, head of SEM/platform channel partnerships for North America at Google, said business owners are the sole owner of that Google+ link. (This feature becomes especially important, especially with well known companies to help keep their content authentic and coming from the true entity.)

Companies like Virgin America, Pepsi, and Coke already are reaching and engaging with consumers on Google+, Kim said, during a recent talk about Google+ for businesses at the CrushIQ social business conference at Gallaudet University in DC.

Other Google+ features that businesses and brands can look forward to include allowing for multiple admins to manage Google+ brand pages (probably a few more months out) and a new badge system. 

The badge feature has not yet launched, but will allow consumers to interact with a business’s Google+ page from anywhere on the Internet. 

“This allows you more interaction with your audience, but they don’t have to be on your Plus page,” Kim said. “They can be anywhere on the web. You can add to the virality of the content you see on Google+.”

Google + Direct Connect is a little known feature that also plans to debut, making it easy for people to find a brand’s page using Google search. The catch is that companies will need a badge in order for this to work. 

“This is a game changer – a direct connection to your Google+ page directly from the Google search bar,” Kim said. “The first time you use Direct Connect, you’re prompted to enable auto-follow. Pages will automatically be added to your ‘following’ circle from then on.”

Christine Cube is a media relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.