I wish I had never heard of Google+’s brand pages

OK, you all know I’m Google+’s biggest fan, right? For the past five months I’ve poured almost all my time into my Google+ account, which has paid off with a fun community and a lot of followers.

But yesterday Google+ rolled out brand pages. Here’s all the relevant news about that on Techmeme.

I wish I had never heard of them.

Why not?

Well, when you work for a public company anything you post as a representative of that company needs to be done very carefully (I work on the media team at Rackspace, going around the world studying the bleeding edge of the technology industry). The problem is that there’s no editorial tools for anything posted to our Google+ account. Google+ brand accounts are woefully inadequate for public companies’ needs. Let’s discuss some of the limitations:

1. Only one person can “own” or “post to” an account. There’s no way for a social media team, or a customer service team, to split up duties. Heck, and that’s assuming that only one team inside a company will want ownership of such an account. What if the marketing team wants to post to the team owned by the customer service manager?
2. If one Gmail account was used to build the public account, and it’s shared between multiple people, there’s no way to know who is posting to that account.
3. If there are rules against posting inside a company to a company account without getting several people’s approval (as there is within Rackspace) it makes it unbearable to post content that has any “life” in it. Why? Because there’s no process for signoffs, so now we’re stuck coming up with some new publishing system that isn’t built into the tool itself.
4. There is no way to add Team members to this account without getting them to follow the account first.
5. There’s no way to see who is following such an account if you are the owner. (UPDATE: some people say I can see this, but it’s hard to find).
6. It is extremely easy to post something by accident to your company account if you are the owner. Just ask Google employee Steve Yegge about that one.
7. If I, as owner of the Rackspace Hosting account, were to die tonight for some reason, how would ownership get transfered over to someone else at Rackspace?

So, let me get this straight, only one person, working on one team, can post to a social networking account? So, if the brand needs to say something to customers in a high-touch, high-service business like ours (we have customer service people posting and answering phones and talking on chat 24 hours a day 365 days a year) they will need to wake me up to get me to post something? Really? Google, did you really think this through?

Yes, Facebook didn’t have those features for its brand pages at first either but then when Facebook first came on the scene no one thought they would use it for business. Heck, when I first heard about Facebook it was still for college students only.

Yesterday I registered Rackspace Hosting thinking “of course they have features to let me transfer the account to other people, and of course they have features to let me add other people as managers.” After all, it’s been five months since Google+ launched and I figured that Google had worked with big brands to make sure that those features were there.

But when I was signing up for the brand page, was there any warning that “hey, you will be the only one allowed to post to this page right now.” Nope.

It was quickly added to Google search and then it was too late to turn back.

But now I’m realizing just what a mess I stepped into. I now have to be extremely careful about what I post to that account. I have to even be very careful about who that account follows (already I added two people and their posts are showing up on the feed, which means that whoever I add can probably mess up someone’s experiences in the future). Not to mention that I can’t see who else works at Rackspace (like I can on Facebook) and I can’t even see who is following the account, so I can easily pick from those people to follow back.

Even commenting on this account is very scary. I still don’t know how to see whether I’m posting as “Robert Scoble” or as “Rackspace.” This is NOT simple enough and if it’s scary for me (someone who has posted thousands of times on Google+) I imagine it’s terrifying for some junior employee who is getting whipsawed by corporate policy and politics.

Because there’s no way to work on a publishing process, now I’m talking with my coworkers about using a tool, like Trello, to build a publishing process so that there’s some way for us to figure out together what to post (we also use Salesforce Chatter). Not exactly what I wanted to be doing this week. But I started one anyway.

Even worse, I’m up early this morning to upload a video, with the founders of New Relic (very cool new company that our customers will want to know about) and now I have to decide where to post that content. Do I post it to Rackspace’s new account, or do I post it to my own personal account? Or do I post it to both (which will look spammy to customers who follow both of us). Yet another reason why I wish I had never heard of Google+ brand accounts: I can’t post content to multiple places. Grrr.

Did anyone really think these things through? Why did they take five months to get done?

Anyway, this is just a way for me to tell anyone thinking of signing up their company for a Google+ brand account to think twice. You might, because you signed your company up for such a thing, get saddled with an entirely new job that you might not like one bit. One that you’ll find that Google didn’t equip you for success in.

UPDATE: of course we’re discussing this over on Google+ too.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

127 thoughts on “I wish I had never heard of Google+’s brand pages

  1. Maybe they’ll build a more business/brand friendly account in the near future? It’s seems like something they’ll do, but it would have been wiser for them to have finalized everything before launching it.

  2. I really havent tried using google+ business yet, but all i am hearing so far are bad feedback. The day after it was released i already got an email with bad comment. They say it was released in rushed, but hey it was on already on the tests for a long time so how come Google wasnt able to kick really good on this one. Im not gonna try it on my makati condo website then.

  3. Looks like we should implement Google+ in unifiedinbox.com soon. Already teams can use it to post to Facebook and Twitter accounts together as a group. Why not Google+ also. We’d be keen to get some requirements and suggestions for this, say from a publishers view so that we get the integration right the first time.

  4. Hi all,
    I don’t know if someone already answered this, but in response to the issue of not being able to have multiple admins, there is a way to do that.

    First, as others have mentioned, create a gmail account specifically for the new brand page. Then create the Google+ brand page for your business or organization with that gmail account.

    Next, log out of that page and log into your personal gmail account, click on your email address or photo in the top right hand corner of the page, and click on Account Settings. You will be in the Account Overview section. Click on the Edit button next to Multiple Sign-In. Then click the ON feature, and check the three boxes in yellow. Hit Save. Then, click on your email or photo again in the top right corner of the screen. In the drop-down box, hit SWITCH ACCOUNTS. Then click on SIGN IN TO ANOTHER ACCOUNT. Enter the login and password for your new Google+ brand page.

    From there you can switch back and forth from yourself to your brand page by clicking in that top right hand corner where your photo is (or where your email address is). And, others who you want to be admins for the page can do the same. They just need to enable the Multiple Sign-In option, as well, and to follow the SWITCH ACCOUNTS, SIGN IN TO ANOTHER ACCOUNT, and add the login and password for the page.

    We tested it and you can have more than one ‘admin’ in at one time.

    It’s a little clunky, but it works, and it allows you to keep your personal account clearly separate, similar to the admin role on Facebook.

    One challenge is that no one seems to own the page, and no one can remove other admins’ access. So, if you have someone at your company leave, you will have to change the password for the Google+ brand page.

    Good luck!

  5. Isn’t the issue the same with Twitter? It too lacks workflow, admin role, and other “enterprise” features. Great post. It reminds me of the webmaster days in the late 90s. One person would typically be responsible for updating the company site. At Cisco back in the day our guy was in Australia. Not exactly scalable, plus timezone issues. Then along came WCM (aka CMS systems), and we solved problem with Interwoven in 1999. Now, I think we need equivalents for social- maybe they already exist?

  6. Anyone know how to change the sort order for photo albums in business pages? How about choosing an album cover? You can do both of these in personal profiles, but doesn’t look like the biz pages have this functionality. Did they really allow Picasa access to JUST the personal profile? This means people who already have albums in Picasa under their personal profile have to upload AGAIN for their business page. Even worse, the business page has no tools, no Picasa, no sorting, no choosing defaults? Why in the world would photographers (or any business with photos) prefer the business pages? Let me know if I’m just missing it. Thanks!

  7. Google innovates and then cleans up the mess afterwards – which means if they are paying attention properly they don’t have to guess what’s needed, their users tell them.

  8. Seems like you are mostly focussing on not having several people to adminstrate one page. And that’s a perfectly valid point for criticism. But as I was told by a Google employee yesterday, this is the very next thing they are working on, so most of your troubles go away, when the beta product ripens a bit more. We are not used to such a iterative process by the fellow beings at facebook, who shove huge updates right in peoples faces leaving them with a lot of question marks. Google is doing it the other way round, developing slowly and comprehensible. 

    1. Google’s changes to G+ are slow. Facebook’s changes to Facebook are slow. Google’s changes to G+ are “comprehensible” to Google (or its users) in the same manner that Facebook’s changes are “comprehensible” to Facebook (or its users). Google’s G+ is different from Facebook in OTHER ways: therein lies the rub. Your comment is a bit vague. It doesn’t address Scoble’s gripe.

  9. I am tired of companies of the size and capacity of google launching a service with such flaws in it. It does not matter if they already are working at the rest, it should have been in there from the core.

    And speaking of Facebook, that is the same. Originally they had the founder of the page who could not be removed. A proper person to install that would have known to make a special account just for that use and add ‘wroking admins’ at a later point. Going forward a year or so and many agency with interns with no clue, you had the change to “no special founder anymore” and now everybody is an admin – and capable of booting out everybody they want.

    I cannot understand why these companies build services without the proper underlying concepts of somebody working in a company or organisation. All points you make above are highly relevant and *nothing* of that should have come as a surprise now and *should* have been dealt with, including roles and rights management at a simple level. I do not see them in charge of an approval concept and as nice as the idea of “one identiy to rule them all” may be and it sounds innocent “but you can post into your company!!” -. that only works if you are a freelancer and work for yourself.

    It DOES NOT WORK in the bigger scale for organization and it does not matter how often you try to push people into that direction.

    This btw is clearly a management task at hand, more of a security risk at hand. Every company should latest by now have somebody involved to make a risk assesment and make suggestions on how to deal with this from not only a legal perspective for the company and no I am not talking small stuff like with Steve Yegge, but also from a communication point of view, a corporate culture point of view and so on.

    It is highly disappointing that Google has not taken a proper approach to this and it is visible that this is like building a house with a flat roof or a car without an airbag. Sure, you can put it in later – but that is going to be so much more costly.

    It would have been a killer offering to have had separate spaces, like little google plusses who are *visible* separated. With management within. But looking at how bad that kind of thinking is already with Google Docs, it is not really a surprise.

    I leave the company. What happens with my content., with my conversations?
    I join the company. Suddenly I have access to everything?
    I change within the company. What happens with the level of access?
    I have x employees. All of them shall have access to this. How?

    Sidenote: I was just forced through signing up for a gmail account for one google apps address, I am curious what that is all about grrr.

  10. Rob, word on the street is that Spredfast is already working to integrate G+ into their Social Media Management Tool.  That tool would solve most of the issues you mention above – multiple users > single account, retention, management, checks and balances for what gets posted.  We are a client of theirs (working through the configuration process now), but it was the first call I made yesterday.

  11. Thanks for posting this. I’m one who has hesitated to create our brand page. I saw the same potential issues with linking a page to my personal account. And even if you create a new Google account with a generic email address, you still have to use a person’s name when creating the Google+ account (it rejects company name as first and last name — although I have seen a few that made it through), which will in turn, be associated with the brand page. As you said, what happens if that person leaves, or you have multiple depts/teams that need to post to the account. This may be a simplistic question, but what is considered to be the appropriate protocol for setting up a brand page?? And why make it so cumbersome? 

    1. I’m not convinced of many of these issues. You make one person responsible for the account (or three, on a 24 hour shift). Their manager also gets the account details. All content goes to that one person for publication. Thus the vetting is built in. For multiple teams you create a page for each. I think Scoble is over engineering a solution to the “problem”.

  12. Not that hot for small business either.  Number 1 is a biggie – of course their needs to be more than one owner of an account – it is not really even a “company” page without that.  Google has been incredibly sloppy lately – I am surprised they even released the product in this shape.  Obviouslym this is one more link in the chain for Google to “own ” our identity.  

    I am still waiting to see how Google Groups will be integrated.  It wouldn’t be for corporate promotion, but they actually have privacy set about right, and many of the features you mentioned here – multiple owners, and the ability to transfer ownership.  

  13. Interesting. Last night was the first time I was afraid too. Not to mention that I often set up accounts for non-profits and help them along. I don’t want to be the only one and the changes between my personal and company accounts don’t seem obvious.

  14. I personally expected it to launch this way, so we are creating accounts using our clients social gmail accounts we recommend. Google+ is more of a threat to Twitter as it is to Facebook so many of the paradigms should be compared to Twitter, not Facebook.  Unfortunately there are no tools yet to allow you to manage Google+ effectively.

    It might seem like a sure thing that they will add support for some of the things you have mentioned, but I could also see them not adding these capabilities, and focusing on other items.
    Also coming from a software development background, I like the release early and often approach.  I’d rather Google continued to innovate and release often, than waiting to have every feature that everyone assumes they should have.

    I do feel for your pain now that you have registered under your account though.  I nearly did the same thing for a client once I saw it was out because I was so excited. Just some food for thought.

  15. Robert, you make excellent points. However, while I too would have appreciated Google implementing these features before they released Pages, I do believe they will be addressed. In the interim, all we can do is Grrr! :)
    I enjoy following your posts Robert.


  16. 2. If one Gmail account was used to build the public account, and it’s shared between multiple people, there’s no way to know who is posting to that account.

    A: But then who used the phone or fax?

    3. If there are rules against posting inside a company to a company account without getting several people’s approval (as there is within Rackspace) it makes it unbearable to post content that has any “life” in it. Why? Because there’s no process for signoffs, so now we’re stuck coming up with some new publishing system that isn’t built into the tool itself

    A: Discuss public postings on Google+, Facebook or Twitter via an intranet bulletin board (or closed Google Groups) and get sign off and one person appointed to post by cut and paste.

  17. Google+ thus far has been great BECAUSE it’s not being soiled by people like Scoble trying to sell me crap. Hopefully none of this will ever be fixed.

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