Businesses are seeing a lot of potential for circles too. Baochi Nguyen, community manager for Boingo Wireless, said she’d like brand profiles to display circles it has created, and for followers to be able to follow that feed. “Similar to private and public Twitter lists,” she added.
Twitter lists are advantageous for brands because they save time, help recognize community members, and increase visibility and credibility. Being able to use Google+ circles in the same way would be a win for businesses and fans alike.
In addition, Nguyen would like her brand’s followers to be able to add themselves to community circles on the page. Members would then be able to post to that circle, much like a forum. The circles would be created by the page so as to align with topics relevant to the brand. For example, Nguyen said Boingo’s page might include a mobile devices group, wireless hotspots by geographic region and customer service or troubleshooting tips.
She also envisions these circles having a brand-to-customer live chat interface and a search function that would allow users to find articles Boingo has +1′d by topic. This would introduce a new layer of social customer service for brands. Though allowing community members to post to these circles freely could mean a high volume of spam, it would be useful for brands to reach fans based on specific interest and to get feedback from user-to-user and user-to-company interactions. If the brand page manager +1′d help articles and FAQs from the company site, it could make for a simpler troubleshooting experience via Google+.
Google+ users have been getting creative about how they’re using Hangouts, the platform’s group video chat service. Businesses could also take advantage it — given Google makes a few tweaks for the brand version.
One example is hosting scheduled Hangouts with high-level employees like CEOs and CTOs to talk about company and industry developments. Hangouts could also be useful for product managers looking for user feedback about apps, sites and hardware they’re developing. This could be challenging with Hangouts in their current form, as they’re open for the first 10 people who jump in.
“Ideally, we could specify the number of folks we want in the Hangout,” Nguyen said. “Access would be restricted to those with a special code, so brands could have contests to win entry into different Hangouts.”
Now that Hangouts can be initiated from YouTube , the feature could also help brands to spark real-time discussion around videos they’ve posted or those from partners and industry influencers.
While optimizing current Google+ features for brands is clearly important, giving them the freedom to build their own communication tools could really set the platform apart. Dan Patterson, digital platform manager for ABC News Radio, envisions “a robust API, adoption of messaging and stream protocols and open formats like XML-export.”
Patterson referred to Twitter’s early days, when it functioned “far more like a protocol.” Even before releasing an API in September 2006, developers were putting together tweet maps. After the release, they took full advantage, making location-based tweet apps and more. Twitter gave users the tools to be able to make the service work best for them — which is what Patterson is hoping Google will do.
“I’d like to see Google+ function like Legos — allow us to decentralize the service and build things,” he said.
Historically, Google has taken an open-source approach to its code, meaning software developers could freely use it to customize new products. The biggest downside to this method? Lack of quality control. As a company grows and its consumers become more demanding, shutting those open doors on developers becomes inevitable.
Going back to the Twitter comparison, the service stifled app growth with its API rate limit in early 2009. Google did the same with Android in March of this year. It’s likely the company would eventually take similar action with Google+ — should it choose to grant Patterson’s wish for the platform.
Google Analytics & Places Integration