Google+ has captured the imagination of marketers. So much imagination that Google responded early saying Plus for Businesses is on the way:
“Right now we’re very much focused on optimizing for the consumer experience, but we have a great team of engineers building a similarly optimized business experience for Google+,” said +Christian Oestlien in his post.
Businesses will get richer profiles and analytics. Some might experiment with Hangouts, within its limitations. But beyond that its just imagination, because the Circles sharing model doesn’t fit brands.
The problem is brands are popular. You can follow a brand on Twitter knowing that brand has incentives to not overload you with updates. But more importantly, you don’t have to see all the @mentions of that brand.
Trust me, I see all the @ross mentions of a certain discount clothing retailer. Welcome to my circle of hell.
Simply letting brands with richer profiles participate in Circles would have the same problem as having +Robert Scoble or +Chris Pirillo in your Stream. But also consider the invite notifications you would get from +Ford or +Spammers, seeking encircled reciprocity to get in your Stream.
Brands of course would love this committed attention. The Circles sharing model addresses privacy issues by letting you have selective disclosure, and options to control redistribution, but gaining committed attention relies on reciprocity. And while you could curate a circle of brands to filter all this out, most people wont because even with a snazzy organizing tool, people are fundamentally disorganized. And are too lazy to actively mute conversations. Letting Brands participate in the Stream with the existing Circles sharing model would overwhelm the stream, lead to unnecessary disclosure towards brands and not be effective for either people or brands.
So I believe Business Plus will be developed with two scenarios:
1) A New Ad Model
You can bet that Google’s Ad sales team is chomping at the bit to sell a new highly targeted ad unit within Plus to Brands. Something directly competitive with Facebook’s granular targeting based on profile data. But I think there could be a big differentiator.
Targeting could be based upon What Google Knows About You. WGKAY is more than what you explicitly declare in your profile. It could be the associations you make as you Circle people. But mostly what they can imply from the raw unstructured stuff you are sharing and things you explicitly +1. These ads could become even more granular and relevant than Adwords.
2) A Different Sharing Model for Brands
The simplest thing would be to let Brands create Sparks, a stream of sharable social objects. They might want to add the option of +1ing and commenting on those objects.
Or let people add Brands to Circles, but not let Brands add people to Circles. Collapse all comment threads. This would let people get Brand content into their Stream with the option of engaging the brand without overwhelming the stream.
There certainly is a lot of detail to be constructed in either scenarios and there many both other alternatives I haven’t considered. But what the Google team does to let Brands engage will be utterly fascinating to watch.