Google is finally starting to let businesses set up shop on its Google+ social network.
The web giant has created Google+ Pages, a place where businesses can add their own content so that customers and fans can connect with them.
"So far, Google+ has focused on connecting people with other people," Google Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra wrote in a blog post today. "But we want to make sure you can build relationships with all the things you care about — from local businesses to global brands — so today, we're rolling out Google+ Pages worldwide."
As Google+ rivals Facebook and Twitter have known for some time, corporate accounts are a key piece of the fabric of a social network. Businesses want to connect directly with their customers. And customers are more than happy to shower affection on brands they like, particularly if those companies reciprocate with deals and freebies via their social-networking sites.
Since Google+'s launch in June, corporations have tried to establish a presence on the service. Google actually shut down non-individual user accounts in the early days of the service as it focused on developing the consumer service. A week later, Google began testing corporate accounts after "thousands upon thousands" of businesses applied to be guinea pigs for the service.
On Google+ Pages, businesses can start sharing information about themselves, and invite customers to chat with them over the service's Hangouts videoconferencing technology, or begin conversations by simply asking questions and seeking feedback. Already, the service has companies such as Macy's, Pepsi, Toyota and H&M using the service.
What's more, Google is baking Google+ Pages into its search results.
"People search on Google billions of times a day, and, very often, they're looking for businesses and brands," Gundotra wrote. "Today's launch of Google+ Pages can help people transform their queries into meaningful connections, so we're rolling out two ways to add pages to circles from Google search."
The first is simply surfacing Google+ Pages in search queries. Google is also adding a feature that it calls Direct Connect, which lets searchers quickly call up a Google+ page by adding a "+" before their query. So if car shoppers are interested in learning more about Toyota models from the company's Google+ page, they can search "+Toyota" and be directed to the car maker's Google+ page.
To get businesses started, Google has also launched Google+ Your Business, which is something of a how-to for companies to get their Google+ accounts up and running. The post walks corporate tech folks through how to set up a Google+ Page, and gives them tools to create a Google+ icon that directly links to a company's page. In the "coming days", Google said it will introduce a Google+ badge that will let people add a company's Google+ page to their circles, without having to leave the company's site.
The web giant is pushing Google+ Pages for all sorts of organisations that may have fans. Some early adopters include the CNN program Anderson Cooper 360, the Dallas Cowboys and the band Train. The Muppets also have their own Google+ Page.
And, not surprisingly, 17 Google units have launched their own Google+ Pages, including YouTube, Gmail and Android.