10 Features Google+ for Businesses will need

While over 25 million users are vividly beta testing Google+, many thousands of companies are impatiently hoping to get an invite to try Google+ for Businesses. Being among those impatient ones, I thought I’d set up a must-have feature list.

Google+ has broken all records. The network, which was launched on June 28, 2011, reached 10 million users on July 14. After just three weeks of operation it hit the 20 million user mark. On July 24, less than a month after its launch, Google+ had 25 million subscribers, making it the fastest growing social network of all time. Then realize it is still in beta and for invites only. Quite impressive!

At The Next Web they believe that Google+ is very much here to stay, and I couldn’t agree more. But to become really successful, it will need to be further developed, as I pointed out in my last blog. This goes in particular for Google+ for Businesses. Companies will demand a more powerful, feature packed platform to engage with their valued customers and brand ambassadors. Here are, in my opinion, the ten most needed features:

1. Proper bio
Businesses are not employed and they don’t live in places. Nor are they married or male. And many will not want to profile themselves as being cool because… Instead, businesses will need a proper space for their bio, contact details, social media policy, and maybe a personal introduction of their social media service agents.

2. Integration of YouTube and Blogger
Corporate blogs are a great way to offer inside stories and background information that would not fit on a company’s website. YouTube is the number one video platform where campaigns can go viral like nowhere else.  Google+ for Businesses could very well become a platform where companies can have these social activities come together, creating the perfect platform for customer engagement. Yes, videos can be uploaded to Google+, but why would you if you already have a YouTube channel? It’s great to see Picasa has already been linked to Google+, but YouTube and Blogger really should be next.

3. Live search
Sparks offer a fairly okay topic search, but lack functionality that many companies would expect from a search engine giant. It is not a real Google search. It seems Sparks can only search for a single word, and don’t allow search strings such as Apple OR “Steve Jobs”. Sparks also miss out on social media posts. For delivering webcare, a live search with all public Google+ postings matching a search string would be needed.

Dutch company Trendisimo recently announced it is working on a tool that will determine trending topics on Google+.  That would become a lot easier if Google+ would introduce #hashtags, like on twitter.

4. Remove replies
Having a public wall like facebook pages has its pros and cons. The great thing about them is that they offer transparency. Customers can share their brand experiences with other customers, while companies can serve many readers by publically answering other customers’ questions. The downside, however, is that bashers and spammers can take over your wall if you don’t check it regularly. Although it’s unlikely that Google+ for Businesses will feature public walls, businesses will still need to be able to moderate their own. They will need to be able to remove inappropriate replies to their posts, to avoid unnecessary reputation damage.

5. Custom URL
So far Google has allowed custom usernames for several services, but not for Google+.  YouTube, for instance, uses http://www.youtube.com/user/username. Blogger uses http://username.blogspot.com and Picasa uses http://picasaweb.google.com/username. Best of course, would be for Google to introduce custom URL’s like www.google.com/mycompany.

6. Customizable tabs
Besides YouTube and Blogger tabs, Google+ should offer businesses to add custom tabs. These could, for instance, be used for games, contests, polls, forums, crowd sourcing, web shops, iFrames or widgets. Facebook pages allow Static FBML (HTML coding) and CMS integration. Google could offer a lot of these functionalities by unlocking the power of Google Apps to Google+. For built-in web shops, Google Checkout or the available in-app payment API would be very useful. And Google Games was announced just two days ago.

7. Widgets
Will Google claim the right column of profile pages for AdWords and other advertising? I certainly hope not for Business pages, since this valuable space would be much needed. Just like customized tabs, the right column too should give room to widgets. iGoogle like (third-party) widgets would allow a great deal of personalization. Orkut, another Google owned social network, does offer several widgets, including games, twitter feeds, and YouTube.

8. Targeting
As stated in my last blog, circles should not be limited to known clients, stakeholders and brand ambassadors. Businesses will need circles based on demographics, like location, language, age and gender. This way businesses can send their messages to specific markets. Even better would be an option for behavioral targeting.

9. Analytics
This should pretty much speak for itself. As companies are increasingly aiming to capitalize on their social media presence, it is important for them to analyze their social media audience by demographics and behavior. The more companies know about their audience, the better they can serve it by targeting specific groups with specific information or campaigns.

10. Solid API
The Google+ API has not been released yet. I may not be a developer, but I sure hope it is going to be a good one. It would make integration with workflow tools, CRM systems, mobile apps and company websites a lot easier. Unlike the facebook API, it should work flawlessly with tools like Hootsuite, SalesForce, Radian6 and Webtrends. Some very useful tools and mobile apps are using the twitter API, and many companies use these to manage their twitter accounts. I wouldn’t be surprised if the accessibility of twitter tools is one of the reasons why far more companies are active on twitter than on facebook.

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