Ever since Google came out with Google+ Pages for business on Monday, the company has taken heat for not giving enterprises basic tools with this initial offering.
And while industry analysts think Google+ could find a lucrative niche in the social networking world among enterprise users, for now there’s a sense that Facebook may be outdoing Google+ when it comes to giving businesses a place to reach customers.
“I think Google has been trying to strike a balance between responding quickly to one big market demand — support for business presence on Google+ — versus bringing a fully-fleshed-out offering to the market,” said Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner. “They are choosing not to wait until Google+ is fully decked out with important but secondary features, such as multi-admin support, account transfers, and audio file support.
“In this fast-moving sector, Google does not have the luxury of waiting until a full-featured offering is ready,” added Valdes.
Actually, there’s quite a list of features that Google+ Pages doesn’t have right now, including the ability for businesses to offer deals or coupons, as well as the ability to host contests or sweepstakes. Businesses on Google+ Pages also can’t sell products.
Many of these features are available on Facebook and now users want them on Google+.
Soon after Google execs in July asked businesses to hold off creating Google+ pages until the network was ready for them, Facebook released Facebook for Business, which basically is a guide to walk businesses through the process of using Facebook features like deals, social plug-ins and ads.
Facebook made it clear that it was going after enterprises and their online time and took advantage of the delay for Google+ Pages. Now, several months later, analysts say it’s clear Google+ still needs more work.
According to Valdes, Google+ Pages is a good start and the company will fill out its offering in the coming months.
“Although Google is getting some criticism for gaps in the feature set, and things that perhaps should have been better thought out, I think that they likely would have gotten more heat for not responding at all to the need for business pages on Google+,” he said. “Facebook has a more complete offering at the moment, but this is a fast-moving situation. Google and Facebook are not mutually exclusive choices. Many businesses have a blog, and a Twitter feed, and a Facebook page already, and now some portion of those will add a Google+ Page.”
In Google’s favor: many businesses are just now diving into the social networking, which will give the company some time to get its act together, said Hadley Reynolds, an analyst with IDC. “[Businesses] will clearly welcome a Google offering and a Google audience,” he added. “So Google has time to take Pages through the revisions and additions process required to make the program truly usable and valuable.”
Reynolds noted that Facebook, the largest social network in the world with a reported 800 million users, is firing on all cylinders with its Like button and interactivity and engagement features — and is snagging enterprise dollars at Google’s expense.
However, Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said there’s still room for Google to become a top social networking tool for businesses. But first, it needs to address problems users have noted this week.
“There are some real limitations to Google+ business pages that make it more difficult for companies to use it the way they want – and these might significantly slow adoption,” he said. “For example, only one person can manage the account, so either an individual will be responsible for all of the company’s Google+ content or the company will need to share that sign-on with multiple people. That’s not enough control.”
At this point, according to Olds, Facebook has the advantage when it comes to which social network is better for businesses. But he expects Google to push hard to change that.
“I’d say neither company has really broken the code on giving businesses what they really want and need from social networking,” said Olds. “That said, this is an evolution and will take time to come together. Plus, no tool is everything to everyone.”
Valdes expects to see Google+ more closely integrated with other Google services, such as search.
Google has said in recent weeks that that’s exactly what it has in mind.
In September, Google CEO Larry Page said he wants to “transform” the company by integrating its various services with Google+.
Google took a step in that direction last month when it announced that it had integrated Google+ with Google Apps, a cloud-based suite of office apps.
Now, Google needs to follow through on adding new business-oriented features to Google+ Pages because the negative attention isn’t helping the fledgling network, said Olds.
“It’s hurting mainly because it’s not helping,” he said. “The buzz they need from their business pages is, ‘This is great. Can’t wait to use it!’ rather than, ‘Why the hell can’t we have multiple managers for this account?'”