Google has not officially enabled corporate accounts in its social networking platform but social media and marketing professionals note that there are some promising Google+ features companies can leverage to take their digital branding and marketing to the next level.
Scott Monty, global head of social media at Ford Motor Company, advised that individual members of the digital marketing team should "get on board now" while waiting for Google+ to officially roll out business profiles. "This will let them understand how the system works and what the community's expectations are around engagement, content sharing and transparency," he said in an e-mail.
The Internet giant noted in July that it expects to have an "initial version" of Google+ business profiles publicly available within the "next few months". In the meantime, Ford is one of the few brands that own a test account in Google+.
Ben Israel, digital strategist at Edelman Singapore, noted in an e-mail that Google+ has had "a solid start so far and received mostly positive comments all-round from early adopters". There are also hints of areas where Google+ may be better than Facebook, he added.
However, "it is still unclear what the final product will look like and whether it will offer users a compelling reason to migrate from their current social networks", Israel pointed out.
To help companies better plan and execute their Google+ corporate profile, Israel and other marketing experts shared five things organizations should note, based on existing features available to individual account users.
1. Group audience into Circles
One unique proposition of Google+ is that it allows users to break down their audiences into Circles, and select the circles of persons with whom they want to share posts, Chris Tang, director of Bain & Mercer, said in an e-mail.
For instance, a company may wish to create a circle for active bloggers to engage these influencers or form informal feedback channel by enabling a circle for active, vocal "netizens", Tang suggested.
"For businesses this could potentially be a feature that allows brands to have multiple types of conversation through the same platform," Edelman's Israel added. "An example would be sharing content for consumers and enterprise customers through the same brand profile just by organizing them into separate circles."
Carolyn Camoens, Waggener Edstrom Singapore's deputy general manager and digital lead, also pointed out that if Google replicates the Circles feature for corporate profiles, it will allow for more targeted engagements between brands and their communities.
"Brands with multiple product lines will be able to keep their fans in one place but also segment their community and offer more specific information," she said in an e-mail.
2. Go private if necessary
Besides sharing of information, Israel noted that organizations can also initiate private conversations with another person.
"This could be a useful feature for branded conversations that need to be taken offline, for example, customer service queries or conversations that require sharing of private information," he explained. Facebook currently only allows page administrators to send private messages to fans, and not from the brand profile."
3. Weigh role search plays
According to Israel, with Google cornering 65 percent of the global search market it will be interesting to observe how the company uses their search might to build out Google+ and integrate Google+ data into search results.
To that end, it is not just about providing a search feature within Google+ or pouring Google+ data into search results, but more to weave Google+ as a social layer across the entire Web ecosystem, he said.
"If Google is successful in developing Google+ as the backbone of its social ecosystem, the opportunities for real-time search and with that, targeted content serving even outside of the social network will be immense," he noted.
4. Use analytics for data
Google's measurement tools, Google Analytics and DoubleClick will provide corporate users with detailed and actionable data, Israel added. On the other hand, Facebook has constantly been upgrading its page analytics feature, Insights, but it still lacks meaningful data and does not integrate across multiple channels and campaigns.
"There are third-party companies that offer more intelligent and elaborated reports for Facebook page manager but the built-in tool is terribly lacking," he said. "Integrating Google Analytics and DoubleClick with Google+ will surely prove to be valuable to marketers."
5. Stick to good old branding rules
The rules of engagement will not be very different unless Google+ corporate profile feature offers something radically different from the other social networks, Waggener Edstrom's Camoens said. What's important is that organizations have the ability to offer rich content and honor expectations of transparency and authenticity, she noted.
Companies, she advised, must have a clear sense of purpose before investing in yet another channel to engage their community, especially if they--like many other brands--are already present on Facebook and other social networks.
"They'll need to ask themselves how Google+ will help them engage better or differently with their customers," said Camoens. "Then they'll need to put in place a long-term engagement strategy, as opposed to a campaign-centric approach."