With the launch of Google+ this year, most of the media buzz about the topic has been the confrontational aspects of Google+ vs. Facebook. But now that Google+ has started to settle in, there’s deeper issues at play for it and the impact it can have on e-commerce. The Official Merchant Services Blog takes a look at where things stand with Google+ and what impact it can have with small businesses.
Since its start in 1998, Google has been building an entire array of web tools. E-mail, calendars, the vaunted Google Docs, advertising, site analytics, mobile applications and third party apps for everything else, the “Google Universe” now offers a complete lifestyle hub for its users. The only thing it had been missing was social media … until now. Google+ is that last addition, and has the capacity to bring all of the rest of the tools Google offers together seamlessly into a rapidly growing social network.
What does Google+ mean for the small businesses?
Google Apps Marketplace and Google’s Chrome Web Store are extensive marketplaces for web apps that host everything from accounting to project management to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications to Enterprise Resource Planning applications. A full suite of management tools come together through Google and then Google+ Circles provide the interactive connection for co-workers using these apps.
Google+ is poised to become the conversation manager, overseeing all of the apps that are generating activity inside of a business. Google+ offers an expansive, easy to manage unifying force for business communications within Google’s universe. As a result, small businesses are migrating (over 3 million so far) away from expansive on premise software solutions to Google Apps for their IT infrastructure in a cloud computing environment. And this gives Google+ the opening it needs to target small businesses.
Single Platform or Best-of-Breed?
This Google-branded “universe” held together by Google+ also brings up a key issue for businesses regarding their tools: Do they go for a series of best-of-breed tools, the top of the line features available from a mix of companies and options, or do they go for a single source for all their business interactions?
With the former choice the business has the top-of-the-line tools and functionality available. But the usage can be fragmented between different pieces of software and programming. Purchasing managers, IT, and end-users are left juggling a medley of vendors and individual tools that on their own can be the best of what they do, but overall may not play well together. It could be something like Microsoft for IT, Oracle for backend infrastructure, Facebook for marketing and social media, LinkedIn for business to business connections. A series of integrations across a landscape of tools that ends up being complicated and expensive.
With choosing Google, and using Google+ to hold it all together, the business now has a single set of tools from the same source. This unifying force is very appealing to small business owners. As they look to replace desktop software and move toward a web-only environment, Google+ gives them that much more convenience on this path. Online tools offer an ease of use, accessibility and low cost that a series of different software packages can’t match. And even mixing together various web-based apps can be more cumbersome than the single Google toolbox can potentially offer. This extends beyond the document sharing of Google Docs and gives a viable web-based alternative for all that’s needed to keep a small business running day-to-day.
Unlike Facebook, which still focuses on the social aspect and presents itself as a place to hang out, Google+ is placing itself in a unique position to be the catalyst for a small business toolbox that manages all the different things a small business needs to thrive.
Now that the benefits of Google+ are thoroughly defined and out of the way, it’s time to focus on the one glaring negative. Businesses still can’t properly utilize the system yet. The only problem with Google+, and it’s a big one, is that businesses can’t register for the time being. Google says that won’t change until winter 2011.
What that means is you have to take advantage of Google+ currently in other ways. So the potential boon Google+ can bring as a unifying force for small businesses is still waiting for Goggle to finish integrating the features and let businesses in on it all. For now, Google+ remains an incomplete tool that still only works as a social tool like Facebook. That will change. And when it does, businesses will have an entire universe of functionality stitched together and ready made for them to take to the clouds and run things through just the web. Host Merchant Services will continue to monitor the development of Google+ and keep our readers up to date.
In the meantime, here’s a blog that gives some advice on how to use Google+ right now.
And here’s a blog from Forbes that cites 5 Things Small Businesses Should Know About Google+.