Google+ will allow businesses to join, according to a Google executive. That could ratchet up conflict with Facebook, which also targets businesses.
Google may have found a way to challenge not only Facebook,
but also LinkedIn: Its new Google+ social
network will apparently evolve in a way that allows businesses to build
profiles and interact with the public.
"We have a great team of engineers actively building an
amazing Google+ experience for businesses, and we will have something to show
the world later this year," Christian Oestlien, a group product manager at
Google, wrote in a July 6 posting on his Google+ profile page. "The business
experience we are creating should far exceed the consumer profile in terms of
its usefulness to businesses."
In the meantime, Google is apparently "discouraging"
businesses from using regular Google+ profiles to interact with potential
customers. "Our policy team will actively work with profile owners to shut down
non-user profiles," Oestlien wrote. "Over the next few months we are going to
be running a small experiment with a few marketing partners to see the effect
of including brands in the Google+ experience."
That experiment will apparently begin with a small group of
partners, and Oestlien made no mention of how it will expand beyond that point.
If Google+ as a business tool takes hold, though, it could open another front
in Google's battle with Facebook over the social-networking space, and the
online ad revenues that come with it.
Businesses have long had a presence on Facebook, and the
company recently introduced a few tools that make group collaboration and
communication a little easier. During a July 6 presentation at Facebook
headquarters, CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a Skype-branded video-chat service,
along with a retooled people sidebar (supposedly to make initiating chats
easier) and group instant messaging.
"We are now making it possible to video chat with your
friends right from within Facebook," read a note
Skype's corporate blog. "The partnership with Facebook makes fantastic business
sense for Skype and gives us an unprecedented opportunity to offer Skype's
voice and video calling products to more than 750 million active users on
Facebook's newest features, which carry substantial benefits
for SMBs and individual workers, seem a direct response to Google's own
video-chat service. They also bring Zuckerberg and his people into a closer
relationship with Microsoft, which recently acquired Skype for $8.5 billion and
already owns a minority stake in Facebook. Does that make Facebook a Microsoft
proxy in Redmond's long-running battle against Google? Perhaps. But Facebook
also has ambitious, world-conquering plans of its own.
During his July 6 talk, Zuckerberg also painted a portrait
of a Web increasingly focused on the social-specifically, the ability to share
loads of content. "We've seen this trend since [Facebook] began," he said. In
terms of how much data people share with those in their social circles, "it'll
be about twice as much a year from now, and twice as much a year after that."
That will affect everything from app development to the tools that people use
That Web socialization offers ample opportunity for
businesses seeking new ways to mine data and reach out to customers. And
Google, along with Facebook, seems readying to fight for that audience.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter