Media companies await Google+ for Business

Facebook launched its “Facebook for Business” subsite this week to take advantage of the tardiness of Google in opening up its new Google+ engine for businesses, Google+ for Business. The Facebook site, however isn’t much more than a primer on how to run a fan page, which is something everybody already knows anyway.

Facebook for Business

Facebook has become a very important tool for media companies, especially as a referral back to our own websites, where we can hopefully monetize the traffic.

But I think Facebook will be child’s play for media downstream compared to the potential of Google+. It’s not that I expect the news conversation to necessarily shift, but Google+ isn’t merely a Google social play; it’s the next version of Google itself, and no company on earth has disrupted the business of media like Google. Media companies look at Google as a competitor for content, but the Web giant is actually a competitor for our revenue, and that’s what makes Google+ for Business both so potentially useful and yet dangerous at the same time.

While we’re thinking that Google+ creates new brand extension opportunities, what it will really do is make it easier for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) to connect with customers and potential customers. It will also help us reach people in the community, although we’re going to have to figure out how to make that really work for us. Google+ for Business will also tilt the balance of search, and while Facebook and Twitter are feeding local news websites, nobody already does that better and more often than Google. The point is that Google+ for Business won’t be an option for media companies.

The real power of Google is that the Web itself is its business world. You don’t have to be within its proprietary framework in order to be influenced by Google. There is no walled garden, per se. Oh, its tools are all within its cloud, but it doesn’t need to “capture” people to make money. Google provides ammunition for the people of the world to help themselves and their enterprises, and it does that very well. Google+ for Business is simply the latest.

An excellent article in PC World outlines reasons why G+ for Business is a game-changer. Looking at this list as a media observer, it’s easy to see why it will be so important.

Search — Google will incorporate the real time stream from G+ into search, as it was doing with Twitter before its contract expired July 4th. This will radically alter news searches, but it will also create great opportunities for smart businesses who learn how to play the game.

Productivity and Communication — Google has 200 million Gmail users and 3 million businesses already using its Apps for Business productivity suite, and these will be incorporated into its social network. As noted above, Google is already a significant driver of traffic to media company websites, and the addition of Google+1 will accelerate that. Facebook has its “like” button, but it has nothing to compete with all that Google can offer.

Video — Yes, Facebook has a deal with Skype, but Google owns YouTube and has already advanced the interactive video world with G+ “Hangouts.” KOMU-TV in Columbia, MO has already experimented with using Hangouts on-the-air, and I expect we’ll see a lot more of that downstream.

E‑commercePC World: “Google already has the Google Checkout payment system and its Products search tapping into all sorts of online merchants. Google could theoretically tie both services into Google+ for businesses, enabling a company to link its payment service to a back end database of products within Google’s ecosystem, rather than sending shoppers off to PayPal.”

Business Websites — Google has its Blogger publishing platform, which has a wide variety of implications for media companies and SMBs in a Google+ environment.

Advertisting and Analytics — Google’s highly successful Adwords system has been around since 2000 and Adsense, which enables people to embed contextual ads on their blogs and websites, has been working since 2003. Google Analytics is far ahead of anything Facebook can offer on deeper traffic and ad performance tools.

Mapping and Location-based Tie-ins — Google will likely integrate the new Google+ pages with Google Places, which appear in its Maps search results. This is a natural for SMBs but even more so as a tool for users, because integration with G+ allows for interaction with those search results. PC World: “Say, for example, that a user is considering several local search results for sushi in his neighborhood. He could theoretically not only compare the local results, but also ask questions about the menu or seating on each restaurant’s Google+ business page before deciding where to eat.”

Mobile Payments — Google has been testing various near field communications (NFC) applications as part of its e‑wallet concept through its Android operating system, and they give a hint as to what’s potentially in store downstream. In theory, according to PC World, a Google+ user could be tracked from when she clicked on an ad, how much time she spent on the website, when she checked into the store, and what she bought. Google already has proven models for most of these interactions; there’s no reason not to tie them together.

There’s no official timeline yet on when Google+ for Business will be available to everybody, but now is certainly the time for us to begin thinking about and talking about how we fit into the mix. There has never been a more important time to immerse ourselves in all that Google offers and to appreciate the reality that half a loaf is better than none. Google+ for Business has the potential to be something for us that goes far beyond simple brand extension, and the smart local media manager is one who understands that.

The ultimate success of the modern social network, the PC World article notes, will depend as much on its supportive services—in which Google has an advantage—as it will on its aggregate users. This truth is the essence of Media 2.0.

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