Google+ brand pages launched yesterday, and now the finer points of their use is being revealed. One distinction I mentioned in passing might discomfit brands: when users +1 a brand, it merely expresses a mild affinity. In order for users to receive brand updates, they must add the brand page to a Circle. Instead of a passing click, users must deliberately choose to treat a brand just like a friend.
Ooooh, lazy brands are gonna hate this.
Google+ rips the “Like” button into two devastatingly separate entities. Show up at a corporate page, and you can give it a +1. That’s simple, it’s the digital equivalent of giving a storefront a thumbs up while driving by.
To see a company’s updates, a consumer will need to actually add them to a circle, which of course beckons the question, just how intimate do I want to be to Glade air fresheners? Can I really call them a friend? They sure aren’t family. Should I make another circle for Products I Purchase Every Two to Three Months With Clever Commercials?
Call it a hunch, but I suspect we’ll see a lot of people +1’ing their favorite products, and that’s it.
And perhaps that is for the best and is actually a more realistic of brand affinity than the Like button ever was. Brands may hate the +1/add-to-Circles split, but fans will love it. Think of it this way: on Facebook, many folks who have a mild affinity to a brand will Like it, but that doesn't necessarily indicate a strong love or affection. They most likely aren't glued to the page's updates and are unlikely to engage with the brand on Facebook unless the brand is providing riveting content.
Love not like
And that's the distinction. On Facebook, there is no Love, only Like. And I don't know about you, but I Like plenty of brands that I don't love. I never look at their pages and ignore their updates.
Google+ allows the distinction between a mild affinity for a brand (+1) and the desire to actually keep in contact with the brand on a regular basis (add to Circles). Brands that are only interested in bulking up fan numbers may look at this differentiation with dismay. However, brands that are interested in truly engaging with a smaller number of influencers rather than stacking up up meaningless Likes will rise to the top and find ways to enhance communication with their real fans.
Basically, this distinction means that brands will have to work for something beyond mild affinity. They will have to produce high-value content and regular engagement in order to merit being in a user's Circles. They will have to generate the same kind of relationship that a friend does--and that will be a challenge.
Which brands are up for this? Can't wait to find out.