Suspended From Google+: Lessons From The Dark Side

August 15, 2011

When the Google+ social networking platform launched about six weeks ago, we were excited. Rather than a feeling of, “Oh, man, here’s another thing we’re compelled to play with because it’s the next big thing,” several of us were filled with legitimate excitement about the new tool.

As such, we were eager to set up an account for the agency to complement the personal accounts many of us had established in the first few days of Google+. Shortly after creating the account for Fast Horse, we heard that Google had a real-people-only policy: You can’t create business accounts, and you can’t use pseudonyms. Google wanted — required, really — business to wait until it had established a formal set of guidelines and the proper functionality for distinct business profiles, much like Facebook has done.

Well, we were clearly in violation of that policy, but we plowed ahead with the experiment anyway. We wanted to get a sense of how Google+ could work from the business’s perspective, and we wanted to see what sort of response we would get to our presence and our activity there. We had heard Google was aggressively closing down accounts that were in violation of this policy, but we made it a few weeks without having the switch flipped.

Until about two weeks ago.

We didn’t do much more than share links to and brief excerpts of our daily blog posts from the Idea Peepshow, which drove a nice but hardly noticeable chunk of traffic in those first few weeks. We also got into a couple of exchanges about why were there and what we hoped to accomplish. To be honest, it was largely just to play around.

Late last week, after I posted a message about the suspension of our account — we can still log in and see our profile page and our posts, but can’t post anything and, if you click on our profile in search, you are taken to an empty page — my friend Rick Mahn asked about what we had learned through the experience. Here’s what I told him:

The one thing I hope they include in G+ business accounts (our “business operating as a human” profile obviously didn’t have this) is a way to add multiple owners/administrators — or even multiple roles with different levels of access! — and, related, an elegant way to switch between “using G+ as Mike” and “using G+ as Fast Horse.” Facebook finally has this, but it’s clunky. But it’s there, which is huge.

Another thing that could be cool … would be to provide a way for people to opt-in to specific Circles [Google+’s terminology for “groups” or “lists”] businesses make available for “signing up.” Kind of like how I can visit, say, and sign up for its Civic Action Network to receive updates about issues affecting the company, major marketing initiatives, and so on. Of course, a Coke G+ page would be able to add people to its Circles, but it’d be cool if people could place themselves in certain Circles to receive updates they’re specifically interested in.

To elaborate on that second point, envision visiting a company’s Google+ profile and adding yourself to its “Product Updates” Circle. (Normally, the profile owner adds you┬áto his or her Circles, and you don’t even know which Circle or Circles you’re in.) That would be your way of telling the company you want to receive updates about products, release dates, sneak-peek photos and more. On the platform of your choice — Google+ instead of, say, email.

Have you had a chance to play with Google+? What potential do you think it holds for businesses, whenever the time comes that businesses are allowed to play there?