When Google Plus launched earlier this year, the company made it a point to let us know that the service was still available only to personal profiles and that brands and businesses who want to build a Google Plus page of their own will have to wait. In an interview to VentureBeat, a Google spokesman had said at that point,
“There will be a product very soon that has businesses’ interests in mind… We want to give them the features businesses expect and the features that can improve the sharing experience both for consumers and businesses. You can expect to see a level of analytics and measurement that you’d typically find in Google products as well as a nuanced approach to how things are shared. It encourages and enhances conversation, it doesn’t just put things in the stream.”
With business profiles expected to be announced soon, speculations are rife on what this new feature could mean to the business of social media. As we have seen in the past year or so, Google has been consolidating their properties – at least the utility part of it. We now have just one universal social property (barring Orkut for Brazil and pockets of India) from Google. Google Buzz and Wave are shutting down. Google Reader is losing its ‘Share’ option. And all of these are being replaced by Google Plus. Similarly, Google Videos is being phased out as users are now being encouraged to share videos via YouTube alone. Most Google properties now have the uniform profile bar at the top of the page that lets users connect to the different Google properties at one place.
So, does this consolidation provide us with a direction that this new Google Plus for Brands will take? One of the most likely possibilities is that Google could integrate the “RSS reader” functionality right into the service. A significant number of ‘Brands’ on Google Plus are likely to be blogs and other news media websites. At present, these websites have separate buttons to let users subscribe to RSS and newsletter feeds. In addition to this, these websites also carry a +1 button for independent posts as well as the website as a whole.
The next step in Google’s consolidation strategy could be to integrate these different elements so that users may follow their RSS feeds, newsletter subscriptions and brand postings on Google+ right from the notifications section on the top of their Google window. What this means is that users no longer have to independently follow the brand pages on Google+ and re-read the same posts on their Google Reader. Instead, Google could be moving towards making Reader and Feedburner redundant by providing these features on Google Plus.
Why should they be cannibalizing their own properties? For one, Google does not monetize Reader or Feedburner and the only reason these properties have existed is to keep competition in the segment at bay. By moving towards one property that will fulfill all these requirements, Google would not only be keeping the interests of its users intact, but also establish a larger active base of users for Google Plus who will help the company beat its nemesis Facebook in the social networking segment.