Google Versus Facebook Update: Brands And Games

There was good news and bad news for Facebook Friday in its social networking battle with Google Plus. The good news: The newcomer is still struggling with how to handle corporate accounts. The bad news: The established veteran may soon be facing competition on the gaming front.

In what qualifies as good news for Facebook but not so good news for Google Plus, confusion ran rampant over the latter’s policy on corporate pages.

CNET had reported last week that Google product manager Christian Oestlien said the search-engine giant was “accelerating our development plans,” then pulled an about-face and CNET reported early today that testing is being scaled back and corporate accounts were being deleted, with victims including Mashable and “Sesame Street.”

Oestlien said in a post on Google Plus, ironically enough:

With so many qualified candidates expressing intense interest in business profiles, we’ve been thinking hard about how to handle this process. Your enthusiasm obligates us to do more to get businesses involved in Google Plus in the right way, and we have to do it faster. As a result, we have refocused a few priorities, and we expect to have an initial version of businesses profiles up and running for everyone in the next few months. There may be a tiny handful of business profiles that will remain in the meantime solely for the purpose of testing how businesses interact with consumers.

In the mean time, we ask you not to create a business profile using regular profiles on Google Plus. The platform at the moment is not built for the business-use case, and we want to help you build long-term relationships with your customers. Doing it right is worth the wait. We will continue to disable business profiles using regular profiles. We recommend that you find a real person who is willing to represent your organization on Google Plus using a real profile as himself or herself.

TechCrunch took Oestlien’s advice to heart, sort of, creating a Google Plus account for a make-believe new employee named Techathew Cruncherin, which has since been removed by Google. The blog introduced the short-lived Cruncherin as follows:

As per Google’s very, very clear rules, someone has to run it, so we’ve hired someone! Meet Techathew Cruncherin, our newest employee. He’s shy, so you may not see him around much, but he lives here at TechCrunch headquarters. Under a desk. He’s an awesome guy. And he lives for Google Plus. Loves it. Shares the shit out of our TechCrunch posts. It’s awesome.

So, do us (and yourselves) a favor and follow Techathew. He’ll regularly send out our best posts for you to read, comment, and enjoy.

Even before the bogus profile was deleted, TechCrunch was on the war path, posting:

We were explicitly told not to put up a Google Plus profile for TechCrunch at launch, but other brands like Mashable, Search Engine Land, Ford, and Sesame Street didn’t get the memo and had their profile pages suspended (Thursday) morning. Since then, Ford and Mashable have had their Google Plus pages reinstated after what I’m assuming was communication directly with Google. Danny Sullivan, in contrast, will have to file a reconsideration request for Search Engine Land’s page.

Because we had Google social head Vic Gundotra and product manager Bradley Horowitz in the TCTV studio (Thursday), I decided to ask them what they thought about the backlash and inconsistent handling of the Google Plus business accounts. Vic Gundotra’s solution was to choose a figurehead from the organization to represent the brand and deal with the interim months between now and when the Google Plus business pages launch that way. Gundotra told me that in hindsight, the treatment of brands in this way was “probably a mistake.”

Why was the handling of this issue such a big deal to the affected companies? GigaOM presents a good argument:

There is a serious issue underneath the griping, which is that Google can make or break a company’s presence online by virtue of its control over the Web-search market — something Google Plus is almost certain to become an integral part of.

A list of preferred accounts may not have seemed like a big deal when Twitter was just a tiny plaything for nerds, but it became a big benefit when the network grew to become a significant distribution platform for news and other content. The issue for brands is that Google Plus could re-create that problem — or opportunity — in spades, because in just a few weeks it has already become so massive.

Back to Search Engine Land’s Sullivan, who posted this on Google Plus:

Hey Google, I’d say I know you’re all new to the social game and should be forgiven that you have messed up with how to handle brands here so badly. Except, you’re not new.

For one, you know that Twitter and Facebook both support brands, and that there would obviously be demand for this here. You failed to implement that support. Bad on you.

I know it’s all “field trial,” but that’s not really an excuse, given that you knew — had to know — this would happen.

Worse, you gave no clue that Google Profiles were suddenly changed to bar non-humans from using them. Before Google Plus came along, this wasn’t a problem. I know. I remember Google Buzz, when plenty of brands, including our own +SEL on Google Buzz account, started up.

No one said a word against this. No one told us not to do it. So when Google Plus happened, no one had any idea the rules had changed — and especially changed for Google Profiles, which are a superset of Google Plus.

Don’t try to put the genie back in the bottle. Restore the business profiles you have closed. Drop the rule you silently added that blocks business profiles. Let businesses use profiles here just as regular people do. Works just fine on Twitter. Then upgrade those accounts when you’re ready.

If you’re really into doing things right, that’s what you should do. Otherwise, you’re just further doing it wrong.

Now, on to the potentially bad news for Facebook and potentially good news for Google Plus: games. AllThingsD reported that when its platform launches, Google will undercut Facebook and Apple by commanding less than 30 percent of revenues, banking that the more favorable terms will attract developers.

AllThingsD also reported that Google will host the games on its own servers, which could speed loading times and game play.

And CNET offered a roundup of Google games-related news from other sources, including a since-edited mention of a games stream on a Google Plus help page, revealed by SlashGear; the discovery by Engadget of code that mentions game invites and Google Plus Games; and a Google Games logo and source code turned up by TechCrunch.

Readers: Do you think Google Plus should enable brand pages? And would the introduction of games influence your decision on whether or not to join Google Plus?

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