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Last week saw the world of social networking heat up. Google’s decision to open their new social network to the wider world came the same week that Facebook unleashed a number of new upgrades (ones that look alarmingly similar to Google+’s, but that’s another story).
Not to be outdone by their rivals, Google are determined to make their social network a success. This week there has been another update about their eagerly anticipated business profiles, something that currently gives Facebook the upper hand in the battle for social networking dominance.
8th Largest Social Network
When Google+ burst onto the scenes [See: Google+: The Long Awaited Social Network], their aim was to create a snowball effect, in much the same way that Facebook did, naturally growing an audience based on exclusivity. By mid July the site had picked up a reported 9 million users and since it has ‘gone public’ [See: Google+ is Open, Come on in!], the number of users has rocketed to a reported 43 million.
According to data from Hitwise, they have seen a huge spike in traffic as a result of opening the floodgates. In fact the week ending 24th September the site received 15 million US visits. This represents a thirteen fold gain in traffic, and sees the emerging social network as the eighth largest, nestled closely behind the ailing MySpace.
The Need for Business Profiles
However Google know and appreciate that when it comes to successful social networks, they need businesses, brands and celebrities to get involved. We only need to look at the success of Facebook and Twitter and the interaction that happens between fans and followers of celebrities and brands to understand the power of engagement and hence the power of that particular social network.
So Google want in, but as we revealed in July, they will launch verified accounts and business profiles in due course, once they have established a truly unique user experience, something that brands and businesses won’t get when using other social networks.
At present Google+ are trialling 2 business profiles with Ford and General Motors, any other business accounts are not verified and are thus unofficial accounts. The fact that the social network is littered with these unofficial business profiles does indicate that where there’s millions of user’s, businesses and brands are desperate to reach out engage with their audience.
Not only do Google want to make business profiles happen, but there is a growing anticipation from users too. You only need to look at the comments beneath Christian Oestlien’s (Google+’s Group Product Manager) blog post on Google+ about a recent Ad Age Digital West Conference to appreciate this. If Google+ is going to go from the 8th largest social network to seriously competing with Facebook, then business profiles need to happen sooner rather than later.
In fact according to Ad Age, Google+ have laid the foundations for business profiles, in which Oestlien announced they are “close to unveiling Google+ business profiles that will permit companies to create pages and circles like those of an individual user of the social network.”
The main advantage that Google+ has for businesses is that Google+ posts can be visible in search engines. So considering the power that Google have in the search engine market share which currently stands at 64.80% in the US and 90.88% in the UK [See: Search Engine Market Share Statistics – September 2011], that is one massive added bonus for businesses to be seen.
Whilst it’s difficult to predict the impact that business profiles will have on Google+, it’s fair to say there’s a growing demand from the businesses themselves and users. Google+ have done a remarkable job to get the 40 plus million users they have so far and to sit as the 8th largest social network, but this last fact does bring home how far they have to go, and verified celebrity accounts and business profiles could be the answer.
The general consensus is that the majority of users of Google+ are industry insiders; it’s seen as something of a detached social network in this regard. So there is a real need to expand the network and gauge interests from people outside of this bubble. To get from 8th and to see those number of visits rise Google+ must get the ball rolling with business and brand profiles – and quickly before the excitement wears off.