Are Google+ pages a boost or a distraction?

The launch of Google+ this week has led to a flurry of comments from the digital world keen to see how the development affects their business. Ever since the launch of Google+, companies have been looking to see how they could get involved in the much-hyped social media platform even after the failure of Google Wave and Buzz.

At every attempt, Google have tried to keep control of the site with a strict policy of removing companies who tried to use personal profiles to promote themselves – often axing genuine users by mistake. I often wondered if scrum half Austin Healey would get the boot for being a “car brand” whilst fashion brand Paul Smith evaded the Google+ police by sounding like a single person.

Yet the majority of users have been asking for a Google+ equivalent of Facebook pages from the start so the launch this week of the business pages section has been warmly received.

There are some useful features for both businesses and followers. Because users have the ability to create circles of influence, they can choose how deeply they want to view and engage with a brand – even creating a bespoke ‘circle’ purely for companies.

Creating hangouts can provide live press conferences or customer Q&A sessions with selected guests at minimal cost. Many are already seeing the platform as being ideal for delivering customer service support.

Start a Google search with a ‘+’ sign and you’ll find their Google+ page. So far only a handful of brand partners are listed despite many companies launching their own page. These case studies have obviously been developed over time.

Burberry is possibly the best page up there. It’s five headline images feature animated pictures of snow falling and mimics the Facebook set-up but the page has a very different look and feel to their Facebook offering.

Pepsi’s Google+ page is more subtle than their Facebook page as well, discussing their link with music through the decades rather than the product itself. Save the Children are using their page to promote campaign videos. There’s everything from an Angry Birds page through to the X-Games (there’s no company listed with a Z yet).

Many are still to be convinced of the success of Google+, although the statistics speak for themselves. It’s taken Google+ 88 days to reach the 50 million user mark. It took Facebook four years, TV 13 years and radio 38 years to achieve the same reach.

Although this seems impressive, I’d argue that many of the fifty million have checked in to see what’s on offer and not come back. Although communities are developing on the platform, many are technology led and many potential users feel left out.

Discussions on the X-factor or the Kardashians might not be highbrow, but they provide a massive amount of online content for Facebook and Twitter.

The question of whether people are willing to switch their social media strategies to Google+ or pay extra to add another channel and administer it is yet to be proved. But the tide is turning as Google continues to increase the offering of its cloud-based services.