OK, part of my job is studying how brands, er companies, use social media. Since I've been doing social media on behalf of companies since 2001, when I blogged for NEC, then Microsoft, then Seagate, and now Rackspace and since I've visited with some of the top social media teams in the world, like NASA a week ago, but also Zappos, Chevy, Comcast, Dell, etc I am noticing some patterns and thought I'd start a conversation about what brands might do with Google+.
First, I've noticed brands do the following things:
1. They are helpful to their customers. This is why Zappos and ComcastCares use Twitter.
2. They demonstrate authority and credibility over the marketplace they serve. This is why Rackspace pays me to interview startups and share that learning on YouTube and here.
3. They encourage evangelistic/promoter behavior by their customers. This is why GoPro has a Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/goprocamera
4. They use it to share news about the company. Look at the tech company list on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Scobleizer/tech-companies and you'll see mostly press release types of things.
So, how could companies use Google+ once brands are allowed here, and what could Google do to help brands?
1. Brands should have an impulse to do something different here than on Twitter, Facebook, or on Get Satisfaction. The Hangout feature shows something. I'd like to offer "office hours" where people can talk with representatives. Already Rackspace has 24-hour live chat on its home page, but wouldn't it be cooler to be able to video chat with someone to get help? Absolutely!
2. Follow GoPro's lead, and let customers post photos and videos to a circle that others can follow.
3. Brands should have a separate feed for pushing out press releases and info about the company. Some customers might want to see only that, or avoid that, which is why separate feeds are needed.
4. Brands should have a separate feed for taking questions from customers, or integration with Get Satisfaction, which already does great job of letting customers interact with brands.
5. Brands need a way to communicate with live video. I can't wait for YouTube to turn on live video capabilities and hope they are well integrated here. Imagine there's a crisis and your CEO is able to turn on a live video feed and pipe that directly into a circle.
6. Brands need separate feeds and circles for different product lines. If I worked at Procter and Gamble I'd like to have a different place for diaper brands than their soap brands.
So, what can Google do to help brands and is there a way for Google to monetize any of this?
1. Make landing pages very "brandable." Most social networks force their own brand, not the brand of the company. Look at how lame the RedBull Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/redbull Compare that to their home page http://www.redbull.com/ It doesn't look the same. Now compare Coke's home page http://www.coca-cola.com/en/index.html to its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cocacola Looks crappy in comparison.
2. Make it so teams can manage Google+ accounts on behalf of brands. On Twitter you have to use third-party tool like Cotweet to do that. Things like let different people who work for a brand easily answer questions and be identified with brands so that customers know that an official brand representative is interacting with them.
3. Make it so customers can be enabled to post content directly onto a brand's profile/page and give brands management control so that those posts can be deleted, moderated, etc.
4. Let people watch a brand vertical, like technology companies, and especially have popular posts pushed to their home feeds. For instance, I'd love to know which are the most retweeted company posts from my https://twitter.com/#!/Scobleizer/tech-companies tech company list on Twitter, but I can't because Twitter doesn't let me do that. I guess I could use DataSift to do that, but that's a lot of work and costs money.
5. Many brands are location-based (like restaurants, plumbers, movie theaters, etc) so it'd be nice to see brands from the location you are at and have location-features built into Google+. For instance, if you are in Seattle, which nightclub has a jazz band playing at it tonight and can customers post photos and videos of that band while it's playing? That seems to be something that Google would really do well in integrating here.
6. Brands need much better "Hangout" features that would allow teams to have inbound requests routed to different employees and also let them more easily moderate and split up different calls. Also, it'd be very cool to have recording and broadcasting features added to Hangout, so that a management team could hold a press conference, for instance, or an earnings call, and have that shared with everyone, not just 10 participants.
7. Let brands share their circles. I have a circle with Rackspace employees in it, for instance, and I'd love to share that with you but I can't. Also, I'd love to better tag each person so you know who to contact if you want to work on OpenStack, for instance, vs. getting someone in HR. Very different people and you probably wouldn't want to interact with both.
How will Rackspace (my employer) use Google+? Very little right now. For now we're in learning mode. Watching, following, reading, seeing what usage model gets adopted here. I could see that soon we'll use it to be helpful to our customers. Already I see many Rackspace employees and managers here, like , , and , among many others. What does that mean? Well, we'll have to see how Google+ integrates brands here but we definitely see many of our customers here, so are excited about the possibilities.
What about you? Do you see how your company can use Google+?
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