Google starts rollout of Google+ for businesses

Months after launching its social network, Google invites enterprises, brands into the fold

Google is getting ready for businesses to start jumping onboard its Google+ social network.

The social network Monday began to roll out Google+ Pages to help businesses create a presence on the social network platform for connecting with their users locally or worldwide. Vic Gundotra, Google senior vice president of engineering, wrote in a blog post that users can add businesses to their circles, recommend them with a +1 and connect with business team members personally in Hang Outs.

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"For you and me, this means we can now hang out live with the local bike shop, or discuss our wardrobe with a favorite clothing line, or follow a band on tour," Gundotra wrote. "Google+ Pages give life to everything we find in the real world. And by adding them to circles, we can create lasting bonds with the pages (and people) that matter most."

Google+ engineers appear to be gradually rolling out the new Pages. While some organizations, like the band ColdPlay, already have signed up, not everyone can. Some users clicking on the link to create a business page receive the prompt, "Google+ Pages isn't ready for everyone, and asks users to "check back soon." Gundotra said in his blog post that everyone "will soon be able to join."

Google released its social network last June and a month later was asking enterprises and organizations to back off from using the site for business purposes.

"Right now, we're very much focused on optimizing for the consumer experience," said Christian Oestlien, a developer on the Google+ project, in a video blog posted last summer. "But we have a great team of engineers building a similarly optimized business experience for Google+. We are very excited about it and hope to roll it out later this year."

At the time, Google also put out a call for business that would be interested in acting as a test group so Google engineers could see how users want to interact with companies.

A matter of days after that post, Google said it was accelerating its efforts to develop a business version of Google+. The company also noted that "tens of thousands" of businesses had signed up to be part of their test group.

In Monday's blog post, Gundotra did not say how the company had optimized Google+ Pages for business use. Google has not yet responded to a request for more information.

Despite the lack of details, Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said this is a good move for Google+. "It's high time that Google delivered on the promise of a more business-oriented social networking mechanism," Olds said. "This is one area where they can get a jump on Facebook and make a name for themselves."

Many businesses and organizations use Facebook for marketing purposes, but the social network isn't optimized for them, Old said. Monday's announcement could give Google+ an advantage in the lucrative enterprise market.

"With Facebook, companies are using mechanisms that are really designed and geared to individuals," he added. "While they're making it work, they'd probably be better served with tools that are designed with companies in mind. Google+ can get the jump on Facebook if they can put together a set of tools that make social networking easier and more effective for businesses."

A group of businesses, including Macy's, Pepsi, Toyota, Angry Birds, and Zen Bikes, already have set up business pages on Google+.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com. Read more about Web 2.0 and Web apps in Computerworld's Web 2.0 and Web Apps Topic Center.

This story, "Google starts rollout of Google+ for businesses" was originally published by Computerworld.

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