Saturday, August 13, 2011

Top 10 Consideration to build out Google+ For Business

Dear Google+ Business Page Team,

I have worked with Brand Managers and Marketing Execs on Facebook fan pages since its early days and have built brand pages for DEMO conference, AOL, PayPal, Intuit and several nonprofit brands. I want to share my experience here to help shape Google+ brand page experience to be better than that of Facebook fan pages and LinkedIn’s company pages today.

I have always loved Facebook fan pages but my heart goes out for its limitations. Facebook started with Groups then added fan pages, relaunched Pages and has adapted to growing demand from brands since then without (so it appears) a thorough customer study of enterprise brand processes and team roles.

So, Dear Google+ Team,  I would like to offer these suggestions to help you create the best experience for brands. Please do not replicate the current Facebook Fan Page experience but build it based on a deeper understanding of customer use cases, roles and enterprise/team processes.

Top 10 consideration to building business brand pages:

10. Analytics is huge and Google+ team has made a great start in identifying analytics as one of the top two upcoming features. Please note that it is important to offer analytics from a brand’s perspective not replicate the Facebook insights offered in their pages today. Facebook added analytics after the fact and lot of Facebook insights are not actionable.

For example, Facebook analytics do not tie into a multi-channel campaign to compare how that channel is performing. So Google’s plans to connect your analytics to AdWords is a great start but please plan on a holistic approach to help us compare channels. Webtrends integrates Facebook Analytics by using Facebook API but it is not the same as offering an integrated analytics for multiple channels.

9.  Facebook analytics for 'likes' when the fan page widget is embedded in a web page is awesome. This is a huge win for Facebook with their Open Graph Protocol. The metrics showing scale of growth of impressions is very important to get buy in for pilot projects before they scale social media ad budgets.

8. In Facebook  for the longest time when a user creates a page, they became the admin and could not be removed (easily). Companies use agencies, students and consultants to create fan pages so the creator’s user profile has to be independent of the brand page once they are not associated with the brand or project. Facebook has since added this functionality and offers the page admin a choice to share feeds as two personas one as their consumer profile and one as the brand page. This gets confusing for people as they create and manage multiple brand pages and can be done with better usability.

7. Every brand has many pages for their main brand with several shared admin and several pages for brand extensions and different regions and languages owned by different groups inside the same company.

Please understand the roles of different players involved in the brand pages to set right access control. One admin adding many other admins in Facebook fan page as done today does not work for real enterprise social media teams. This will not come up easily in your market survey as this is a boundary condition and a pain of the social media guideline provider taking care of employees who transition out. Many social media pages have multiple employees as admins and not many brands worry about the liability of the ownership of the pages. They usually wake up to it one day. I have been part of the rush of many brands that go through a brand audit to check which of their pages are owned by someone inside their own company. Expect management time on your policy team’s part unless you build a self management module for a master admin for a large brand. LinkedIn company pages is a good example of adding company admins in one place.

6. Fan page today is not setup to run campaigns, this is a major design flaw in Facebook.
I have experience running a campaign connecting Venture Capitalists and entrepreneurs on a  Facebook fan page. It was difficult for users to engage on the page until they fan the page. Then based on the admin access of whether the fan can post pictures or videos etc users could engage with the page. This is reverse to how user engagement should be done by creating easy call for action, much like the web. So we cannot measure page views of users visiting a fan page untill they fan the page missing out on people who leave without becoming a fan.

At DEMO, we tracked fan count when VCs with large friend counts responded to an entrepreneur question on the Facebook fan page, which was DEMO’s  real campaign goal. We had to track it manually  and not in the Facebook fan page insight. So in summary, we need fan growth tracking on campaigns for  a variety of campaign situations.

5. At AOL we had a scavenger hunt at events and got users to friend the fan page. At Intuit we had a different quiz game at conference booths to increase fans. These again were not trackable with direct metrics. So metrics should have several attributes - location, time, device and custom fields to be tracked by campaign manager. The campaign manager should be able to track the metrics based on the campaign goals of whether it is lead gen or engagement and define what that means for the particular brand.

Palm Norchoovech from SAP says “We have several fan pages for different regions and languages and spend lot of time to sort the fans into multiple lists. If Google+ page can follow back all fans and sort them into groups automatically based on the criteria in their profile info (locations, languages, etc) it will save business page admins valuable time. Then, we can use only one business page for one brand and not multiple pages based on languages. It will allow admins to send updates to the right target fans.”

4. Sun Microsystems used fan pages to communicate with their base like a newsletter. We used this at DEMO minimally, although this again is not easy in Facebook fan pages. Communication in a company is done by a marketing communication or marcom team that is different from the brand page admin. The comms team makes the creative of the newsletter in HTML. But Facebook messaging for fan pages is primitive and non-HTML making it extra work for the admin to make a text of the message to update fans via Facebook Fan Pages. This should be improved with Google+ business pages. Google+ could integrate standard email programs directly instead of offering basic messaging options from brands to fans.

3. Facebook struggled with differentiating between Groups and Fan pages in the beginning, so some business were stuck in Groups unable to transition to pages. So Google+ should look very closely at Facebook Groups and Pages to understand the various brand profiles and use cases.

2. Branding the brand page is a killer need. I remember endless conversations within companies explaining how a brand name cannot be translated to a vanity URL. Worse is to beg friends inside the company to fan a page to get 100 fans (now 25 fans) to claim the fan page.
This again is against standard enterprise behavior and worse is that leaves many employees as fans of the page influencing decisions of what consumers really want. You will need to ensure there are enough fans so there aren't empty brand pages. But why not get creative to allow brands to run campaigns to get fans as part of their fan page creation process?  

1. I love how Google+ calls it Google+ pages for brands, bands and beyond.

Facebook allowed fan pages by real fans as an afterthought to allow for community of fans of a brand to maintain a fan page. This is good for me as a consumer and not an easy thing to accept as a brand. It offers a dichotomy of brand adoption and brand dilution in one.

So Dear Google+ team you cannot plan ahead for all kinds of pages types, so plan a flexible structure to adapt to change. Be prepared or Google’s  loyalty will be torn between consumer groups and Google’s customers who will want to control the brands.

I hope Facebook Pages team reads this and brings innovation to Facebook Fan Pages too. I join the many brands and social media enthusiasts as we wait for innovation in brand pages to truly bring social media to connect us to our customers to let our customers lead us.

Readers: Share your thoughts on what else you would add. Comment here or Tweet me @sujamthe