Google has a lot riding on the success or failure of its newest social networking foray, Google+. Many have forgotten that they were early forecasters of how Social Media would monumentally shift the way consumers connected with one another personally and professionally when in 2004 (!) they purchased a small startup called Blogger. As you know, Blogger was a huge success (and still is) and not just for content-consuming customers but for Small Business owners looking for new ways to expose their products and services to the almighty search engine giant. Since then, they’ve had fits and starts with their social enterprises (most recently, Google Buzz). And, Google is not going to let Google+ fail. No way. No how. And, while I know it is and will continue to grow as a vital player in driving traffic for Small Business, I also know it could use some room for improvement. Here are my top seven things Google+ needs to add to their platform to succeed.
Mobile G+ Pages Admin
I have presented at seminars and lead workshops with thousands of business owners over the past few years and the last thing most business owners want is to be chained to their desk updating Social Media. We need to squeeze in communications among other things like hiring and leading our staff, servicing our customers, managing quality control, juggling our business’ finances, and handling the business of our personal lives. The proliferation of mobile computing has spawned a need for all social networks to make mobile interactivity of primary concern since many of us find the time not when we’re at our computers. Currently, with Google+, you can manage your Google+ Page from the mobile smartphone apps; you need to log out of your personal account and log back into the service and select your Google+ Page. For those of us who use Google+ professionally and personally, and manage Google+ Pages, this is time-consuming, cumbersome and a fun-killer! So, Google needs to make Google+’s Page mobile administration much easier. They can develop a separate smartphone app for Google+ Pages (such as Facebook’s Pages smartphone app), or they can just give you a separate tab within the Google+ app that switches you over to your G+ Page interface so you know you’re interacting as your business, product or brand…and not yourself.
Google+ Pages needs to have more email interactivity (i.e., email-to-post, email notifications of +1’s and comments, etc.). Many Small Business users (like myself) manage business marketing and operations primarily via email. It’s everywhere, easy and inexpensive to manage and market your company with email. Google+ needs to jump on the 80’s bandwagon and give us control similar to the way WordPress, Tumblr and many other blogging sites do it: (a) you get a private email address [email protected], (b) you keep that email address private and add it to your address book, then (c) whenever you want to post to your Google+ Page you simply email your text, photos, video, links and even an .ICS (event record) to your private email address and it posts to your G+ Page.
G+ Comments for Websites
We need Google+ Comments plugins for websites that want to replace their commenting system with Google+, especially with the advent of Google+ Sign-in. To-wit, Google recently added the Google+ Sign-in functionality which is great for Small Business website publishers to have more options outside of Facebook Connect and Sign in with Twitter. Google has a great product, Google Moderator, which they could easily wrap into Google+ and make it available for us to add to our websites so that visitors can easily use their Google credentials to log in and comment, and even vote comments up and down.
Centralized Messaging Platform Support
Google+ needs to become a centralized messaging platform on top of Google+ Hangouts and the Share field by adding text-messaging with emoticon support, email, IM, and voice messaging support. I’ll explain… I’ve lumped all these telecommunications features together because they are remnants of “technology past and present,” that we would all like to merge into just one inbox, our Google+ inbox, especially as business owners. I see this simply as adding the reverse (or “legacy”) functionality that Google currently has inside most of its software; you see your Google+ sharing tools at the top-right corner of your Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Voice, and so on. Why not have a button in the top-right corner of Google+ with access to your Google Voice, Google Chat (with access to your Facebook Chat, MSN Messenger, AOL’s AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, IRC, etc.) and Gmail? As well, it would be included while you’re in a Google+ Hangout. It would hover over your current screen when necessary and close up out-of-the-way when not needed. Think of the productive hours saved being able to interface with your telecommunications inboxes in one centralized space, and making it a part of your stream and even having a separate set of tabs so you could filter to those message types just in case you’re worried you’ll miss something in the volume of notifications.
Small Business DIY Developer Support
Expansion of access to the Google+ API for developers to extend the platform is really important. Ergo, make the API so brilliantly simple that, like the former Android App Inventor, Small Business owners can create their own Google+ applications using their own Google Apps for Business accounts and giving their customers access through their normal Google+ user profiles (or their Google+ Page in the case of B2B). For Small Business owners that don’t want to hire website programmers and developers to build their Web presence–whether on our own websites, mobile sites, smartphone apps or beyond–Google+ should empower us to make magic happen with WYSIWIG (“what you see is what you get”) tools. Power to the people!
More “Friction Sharing”
We need more Google+ “friction sharing” from more sources, not just Instant Upload photos on the Google+ mobile app. Facebook has decided that frictionless sharing is the way to go when it comes to sharing content into your “friends'” and fans’ Newsfeeds; however, Google+ takes the almost 180-degree approach by providing friction. So, you take some photos (and video) of a business events and you want to share that to your business colleagues, and Google+ automatically looks at your new photos and pushes them to a private, secure folder for you to select which you’d like to share via Google+. Brilliant! I want Google to add more places from which you can push content to this Instant Upload folder so you can share more of the great things you as a business are doing. Think about that great tweet you just read and want to share, that great podcast or YouTube video you listened to, that FourSquare check-in at that vendor retail location you enjoyed, or blog post comment you just wrote that’s both insightful and worth sharing to your audience.
Social Media Importer
The ability to import my Facebook timeline, Twitter feed, Memolane feed, LinkedIn history, etc., into Google+ so we can have a complete social chronology (historical record)–either automatically or as a manual process. The Google+ History API is a start but there should be a way for consumers and businesses to do this without an issue. As businesses start to learn how to put up consistent, valuable content in many different places, we should be able to centralize this data when one social network dips in value to us and we need to move. Google is a leader in this arena with The Data Liberation Front, and now they need to give the inverse power to us to make it easy to get things into our favorite, new social platform! As well, if this is automatic, this will cut down on having to remember to post on Google+. No matter where you post online, you can choose to collect those posts, filter and format appropriate to Google+ and push them into your Google+ Page stream. This may even be just an included function under the expanded Instant Upload.
BONUS – Google Analytics for Google+ Pages
Incorporate Google Analytics into the tool more tightly or push the data to Google Analytics for your Google+ Pages (like Ripples) so that I can view my Web presence marketing all in one place. This is rumored to be coming soon. Google has tried and failed and tried and failed quite a bit with Social Media in recent years. And, I think that’s why Google+ will champion not as the “next big it” social network, but the tried-and-true, seamlessly-connected network that Facebook seems to keep trying not to be with its constant interface and privacy-policy changes.
Okay, so I hope Google is listening! I want Google+ to be successful. Not everyone sees how powerful Google+ Pages are to Web presence marketing for Small Business, but believe me, it’s going to be more and more important as Google Author Rank takes hold and the tipping point of users on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ start to equalize (as it’s happening…oh…so…quickly!), and then Google+ becomes the de facto social network for Web publishers.