Facebook woos businesses; ups battle with Google+

As Google continues to work on making a business version of Google+, rival unveils Facebook for Business

While Google asks businesses to hold off using its new Google+ social network, rival Facebook is helping companies get onboard its site.

On Tuesday night, the world's largest social networking site launched a new page called Facebook for Business. The how-to page guides businesses on how to best use the site's pages, ads, deals, social plugins, and sponsored stories.

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The page was added to Facebook after Google not only asked businesses to wait for a more robust version of Google+ to be released, but kicked out some companies that set up accounts on their own.

"I do think there's some urgency there [for Facebook] to jump on it before Google gets its act together," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with Yankee Group. " Facebook has a huge lead with consumers, so where can Google effectively compete with Google+ -- businesses. If Facebook gets a jump [in the business market] now, that puts them in a leadership position."

A Facebook spokeswoman said the new how-to page focuses on helping small businesses make their way in the new social world.

"Facebook [for Business] allows small businesses to create rich social experiences, build lasting relationships and amplify the most powerful type of marketing - word of mouth," said Carley Lake, a spokeswoman for Facebook. "We created Facebook.com/business to make it even easier for people to reach these objectives and grow."

Businesses have been hot to create a presence on Google+ , which is nearly a month old. While Google+ has far fewer members than than the long-established Facebook network, the new site has shown a lot of momentum and has been garnering significant interest among both consumers and businesses.

Businesses like Ford Motor Company and Sesame Street found their way onto Google+ early on.

However, Google quickly asked them to refrain from using the site, acknowledging that the first iteration is geared for individuals, not for companies and organizations. A business focused site is in the design stage, Google added.

There has been so much interest in that business version that Google has picked up the development pace.

At first, Google said it expected to release a business version by the end of this year. Just days later, Google said it planned to soon pick a few companies to participate in a field trial of a business version of Google+.

And then last week, Google changed its stance once again by announcing plans to push out a business version for everyone to try in the next few months.

Kerravala said there's a very good business case for companies to get involved with social networking, though none of the top sites have made it easy to do.

"I do think there's a role for social networking with businesses," he said. "I just think no one has really helped businesses figure that out.

"It looks like Facebook's how-to page is almost a paint-by-numbers model for businesses. It's a cool idea. It's my sense that most businesses have no idea what to do with Facebook," Kerravala added.

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, "Facebook woos businesses; ups battle with Google+" was originally published by Computerworld.

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