Much like Facebook Pages, these Google+ destinations are places where commercial names can not only broadcast news and propaganda to the world at large, but also interact with their fans and critics. You can sign up here at the new Google+ business site.
The news comes on the heels of the company’s October announcement that Google+ is now part of Google Apps, the search giant’s online suite of office applications. Clearly, Google is serious about turning its social network into a business tool. But the company is not alone.
At this point, Google+ Pages are where businesses interact with web denizens on the cutting edge of net technology, and Facebook is where you interact with everyone else. Facebook boasts 800 million users, while Google claims 40 million.
Google’s limited audience isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For now, Plus streams generally contain “non-frivolous” information. A company’s message isn’t lost amid a sea of random pictures and cat videos. Of course, this may change.
But more importantly, Google integrates Plus into its web-dominating search engine. With Google+ Direct Connect, searchers can insert a “+” before their query and jump directly to a business’s Google+ page. Type “+YouTube” into a Google search box, for instance, and Google will take you straight to YouTube’s Plus page.
This is where Google will have an advantage over Facebook: With a broad array of services like search and Gmail and Chrome and Android, Google offers tools that are fundamental to the online lives of so many people — and these can be tied to Google+. As Google+ evolves, Google will have the means to promote its social network — and the branded Pages within it — in ways that Facebook or Twitter cannot.
And though many point to the similarities between Plus and Facebook — and the similarities have only grown with the addition of branded pages — the addition of Pages may be more of a challenge to Twitter. While a certain portion of the population is accustomed to information in 140 character bites, Google+ provides a richer forum where companies can release news to the public.
Sharing pictures and video on Twitter, for instance, is still a rather clunky process. Followers usually must click through a shortened link and wait for a new page to load. By contrast, Google+ integrates directly with YouTube, the web’s unquestioned video heavyweight, and Picasa, its photo sharing tool.
What’s more, anyone can readily comment on a Google+ Page post, and the Page owner can readily respond. With Twitter, that sort of communication becomes a tedious series of @-messages that clog the feeds of uninterested followers. Google is certainly trailing the pack with Monday’s announcement, but in other respects, it’s well ahead.
Update: This story has been updated to remove a suggestion that Gmail users may be automatically opted in to Google Plus. This is not the case.