Google+ Lesson: Business Users Come Second

Google's consumer-first approach can produce creative products. Just go in knowing where you stand.
Danny Sullivan pulled his hair out in frustration for 325 words in a recent blog post. Read for yourself, but he's honked off that Google barred brand pages from its new Google+ social network.

Google+ is Google's attempt to create a social network to beat Facebook. Brand pages on Facebook and Twitter let you follow a company instead of a person. With digital marketing soaring in importance, companies flocked to the chance to plug into Google+.

Google didn't anticipate the demand for businesses to create their own brand profile pages, and it says the platform isn't ready for them yet. It is disabling pages that businesses created using the standard Google+ format. Until it can build something for brands, Google recommends letting one employee who has a personal profile be your face of the brand for now. Tech bloggers went bananas. Sullivan's blog post has more than 130 comments.

Google admits that it messed this up. It has already said that it didn't expect the huge consumer reaction (Google+, which attracted about 10 million users to this test launch, isn't accepting new members). Among the comments to Sullivan's blog is this from Vic Gundotra, who leads Google’s social projects:

"We should have anticipated brands and people who want a following would be very frustrated when we didn't have proper profile support. This is my fault. I prioritized other things first. So when Danny says Google screwed up, he is right. We prioritized making a great experience for people first. None of our internal models showed this level of growth. We were caught flat-footed. This growth is very enticing for people/brands who crave an audience. We are doing all we can to accelerate the work to properly handle this case. Please give us just a little more time."
Google brand profiles appear to have been placed well down the original list of Google+ priorities. I say that because Google now says that, by refocusing some priorities, it will be able to get a solid business profile option in place within a few months. So, without that new sense of urgency, how soon would business brand profiles have appeared?

For IT leaders, there is a good reminder here: Google thinks of the consumer first--and probably second and third. The enterprise/business market is a tag-along business, and you will not get the goodies first. This is a logical strategic decision -- advertising is 97% of Google's business, "other" (which includes enterprise customer licensing) is 3%, or a slightly north of $1 billion-per-year business. But you also get the sense at times like these that the consumer focus is simply part of Google's DNA.

Google does deliver some very good products for business use. I've talked to a number of satisfied CIO customers of Google Apps, and I quite happily use Google Docs myself for certain online collaboration work.

But those CIOs also know that they won't drive the Google Apps development agenda. For example, CIOs for a long time asked for some control over when new features go live. That's not a big problem for consumers, so Google just flips the switch when it's ready. Google finally gave businesses some help on this, but the new policy merely gives them a week's notice. The consumer model reigns.

Google isn't indifferent to the needs of business. After Google+ product manager Christian Oestlien posted the decision to take down brand profiles, one reader challenged whether Google "really [did] not anticipate thousands and thousands and thousands of businesses would need to be represented here?" Oestlien replied that it's true, but then committed to making the brand profiles useful once they're delivered. Wrote Oestlien:

Really. We didn't know what to expect. I think you will find that we want to have the same nuance with business profiles that we did with consumer profiles when we created features like Circles. Small changes can have a very big impact. Thanks for your patience.
Google's consumer-first approach can indeed produce creative products for business use. Just go in knowing where you stand in Google's line.

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