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Four Google+ features that impact businesses

After months of waiting, Google+ finally launched business pages last week. If you haven’t gotten into Google+ yet, it’s time to dive in. Most brands aren’t breaking new ground on the network just yet, and some even think that Google+ is already dead.

Google+ hangout

A 10-person Google+ hangout can get pretty busy. Photo: Flicker user Steve Garfield

I think the death knells are a bit early considering the distinct advantages Google+ offers businesses for search-engine optimization, direct search and targeting consumers. Clearly, the search giant does need more users invested in the network.Most users, myself included, are not using Google+ as their primary social media tool, and it likely won’t topple Facebook in the short term. But, the fledgling network’s unique features and their impacts on businesses should interest reporters:

Hangouts. Businesses are already kicking around how to use Google+ Hangouts, the larger-scale video chat tool, for customer service issues, product launches or to communicate with specific consumer groups. Tracking and getting into Hangouts gives reporters a whole new way to mine what’s happening with a brand’s user base and monitor a company’s customer interaction.

+1s. Pete Cashmore, the CEO of Mashable, wrote an interesting piece for CNN Monday that points out that the value of Google+ is capturing social data from the +1 widget. Even if Google+ never gets as many active users as Facebook, the sample size of active users is still large enough to give valuable statistical insight when Google is tracking +1s as a metric to rank pages, sites and topics. So, +1s are a valuable trend-spotting tool for businesses and reporters.

Collaboration. Google is pitching Google+ as a potentially transformative collaboration tool for business. If businesses (other than Google itself) start relying on Google+ for document collaboration, project-planning and meetings, that’s an interesting story. But, advanced web collaboration eventually could allow reporters more insight into decision-making.

Real identity. Google+ already had its first big brand-jacking incident with a fake Bank of America page, but the speedy shuttering of the page demonstrates again just how serious Google is about real identities. Facebook has been pushing fors too, but users are wary. The upside for reporters is that increased emphasis on real identity should make it easier to find sources who interact with certain businesses.

In Basics, Featured.

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