The recent launch of Google+ brand pages was met with a collective, overwhelming "meh" from online marketers. Many pointed to the fact that the pages offer little in the way of new or innovative features and are not very different from Facebook's brand pages. While aesthetically this complaint may have some validity, there are a few unique features that brands and marketers can (and should) take advantage of.
Google Direct Connect - A new way to search:
Type +Pepsi into a Google search bar and you will be taken directly to Pepsi's shiny new Google+ brand page. Google has dubbed this feature "Direct Connect" and it creates a new way for users to quickly search for and connect with brands online.
As users become more aware of, and more adept at using Direct Connect it's easy to see how maintaining a dynamic and engaging Google+ page for your brand could become necessary to connect with younger audiences.
Creative Profile Design:
Google+ brand pages allow brands to flex some creative muscle when it comes to page design. While there is currently no functionality for building out apps and welcome screens as with Facebook, brands on Google+ do have the option to create fun, eye-catching page layouts by selecting captivating images to display as "Scrapbook photos" (the five photos that are displayed at the top of the brand page).
Watch the cyclist flip across your screen on the Red Bull page.
To watch the snow fall, check out the Burberry page.
One of Google +'s most unique features is Circles. Users place people they follow in Circles that can be curated however that user chooses. For example, I might create a Circle for coworkers, a Circle for college friends, and a Circle for family. If I have a good marketing tip, I'll share that with my coworkers Circle. If I have a funny family photo to post, I can choose to share it only with my family Circle.
With the launch of Google+ brand pages, brands can choose which users they share content with by segmenting followers into Circles. As an example Google imagines a brand that puts its followers in one of three Circles: Customers, Buyers, and Staff.
The ability to tailor messages to specific customer or user groups is a powerful tool for brand marketers looking to be even more relevant to brand followers.
"Hangouts" is basically a video chat platform built in to Google+. From a customer service perspective, Hangouts represent a powerful opportunity to connect with customers or clients and resolve issues and questions face-to-face.
To encourage engagement, brands could consider hosting Hangouts in the form of Q+A sessions with designers, columnists, bloggers, or any key players at the brand.
There are also a few notable missing features that marketers should be aware of.
Marketers who have long used contests and promotions on Facebook to garner larger audiences and earn loyalty from fans were dismayed to hear that these will not be allowed on the Google+ platform.
The embargo on offering prize incentives to followers may force marketers to get a bit more creative with the content they publish on the Google+ brand pages they manage.
So far there's no sign of a custom URL functionality, which has left some marketers miffed. It's true that not offering custom URLs does seem like a strange oversight. However, it's conceivable that Google Direct Connect will eliminate the necessity for custom URLs altogether. When a user can type "+brand name" into his or her Google search bar as opposed to typing www.plus.google.com/brandname into the address bar, the lack of custom URLs begins to feel much less like an oversight and much more like a strategic move.
Keep in mind that the Google+ brand pages launched less than a week ago, so changes and improvements are sure to follow in the coming months!