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. 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?

    Simple solution.

    Set up a dedicated corporate gmail account for Rackspace - 
    From there create a Google+ identity.
    From there create a Google Page for Rackspace.I created a Wine for Spice page from my personal Google plus but soon saw this issue and then quickly created a Google+ ID for Hyde Park Wines

    And then Google pages for the three businesses in Hyde Park Wines as well.

    So create a new Google mail / G+ ID for each brand page that is managed separately and provide passwords to those authorised to post and edit.

    Wine for Spice (The new one. I have deleted the original that was linked to my personal Google account+)


    Sticky Wines


    Veg Wines


  2. Hi Scooble,
    Is it me or Google is missing lunch after lunch lately.

    - G.Reader – massive negative feedback on forums[ they even excluded the feedback button !! they
    have on Gmail and G+]
    - Gmail for iOS – huge problem
    - G+ brand pages – very strange shortcomings
    - new Gmail design: new interface, no improvements, poor-POOR themes.
      Even if some like the new All-White theme, my favorite feedback is :

    From what I see, from their wish to be in front of the market they throw out unfinished products, in the hope they will later fix them.

    Either this, or … never saw me saying this .. they need to hire a Q department because their standards are free-falling.

    Also, thanks for this review :).

  3. Google has been pretty good about updating its features so I think we can rest assured they will listen to this feedback.  I’m sure you will longer be a (Google+) lover scorned :) 

  4. I think G+Page should allow a group of users to post information in one Page, and offer more API for the commercial users. In G+ itself, it should offer us a switch per page to mute and unmute it.
    I think then it’s good for commercial users and Group talking for some topics for the common users.

  5. Agreed Robert, I just shared a similar perspective with my Google rep. Account ownership is so fundamental yet they act like any account will be owned by one person using “the main contact address for the company,” as if all of these pages will be run by small independently owned gas stations. Hacking out a product is the ethos we’re supposed to support out here in fanboy land, but the reality is, we are dealing with large companies, brands, celebrities, etc. and they are going to need infrastructure, verification, support, etc. .. Ironically it works best for independent personalities … like Robert Scoble himself. Even Robert Scoble the “celeb” is quick to come out and point out the shortcomings related to the company he represents. That should tell you something.

  6. Hi Robert. Given your criticisms of Google+ pages, I would be interested to know what you think of Mynewsdesk.com. The company is HQ’d in Sweden, with clients including Google, Audi, Canon, Ben & Jerry’s, L’Oréal, Ford, etc. I work for Mynewsdesk and the network/platform is designed specifically for comms between companies and influencers (unlike Facebook or Google+). We currently integrate with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. WordPress, etc. See our UK ‘page’ here - http://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/pressroom/newsdesk. Would really appreciate your comments.

  7. Now, you’ve just set the course of the Google+ Page Team for the next three months or so!

  8. Thank you so much for writing this! I was just starting to get together what my company’s G+ page should look like, and I had no idea about the pitfalls. Now I’ll have to redo the whole project plan. Maybe I’ll hold off until I see some other ideas.

  9. Maybe someone can invent some kind of World Wide Web which companies like Rackspace can use to engage with customers in whatever way they like, using any tools that are appropriate, so you don’t have to use the half-baked results of Google’s famously crappy coding.

  10. It is great to see that our first thoughts on the new Google+ Pages are similar to yours. Our first question was, why did this take so long to roll out, from the simplicity of these Pages they should of had these ready to go when they originally launched Google+. We work with a wide range of businesses, small and midsize mainly and I am having difficulty figuring out how to manage their accounts for them and still allowing them the access they want and should have. We’ll continue to play around with our new account, but at this time we are not recommending it for any of our clients.

    ~ Trevor

  11. Agree. I am astonished that Google would roll out pages for business without multi-admin support. That leaves three choices: 1) Be the sole person responsible for social media activity at your company on Google+, 2) Share your personal Google login with all the other members of your team or 3) Create a new Google account for your company and then remember to change the password for everyone anytime someone leaves. I suppose 3 would be the best option for now, but some users launched company pages and _then_ found out about the lack of multiple owners. This really makes me wonder if Google has any idea what companies need in a social media platform.

  12. You’re talking I believe, about the role of unintended consequences within the context of releasing features that are not fully baked or ready for prime. Just as “one never has a second opportunity to make a good first impression” you aptly describe how difficult (impossible really) it is do undue some actions online once they have occurred. Especially with Google+ as a Google product being so integrated/influential (and probably increasingly so) in the company’s search results. That is a powerful area of concern. Focus (and discussion) used to be (and still is somewhat of course) on the UI experience in regard to navigation, actions etc. but now increasingly the smart discussion also increasingly focuses on issues beyond design to issues of data reach and privacy and sharing and these types of consequences, unintended and otherwise, that result from social features and services.

  13. Robert’s post shines a light in the general direction of a fundamental weakness in modern software/system tech far more troubling than “It’s missing some features. Come, on, get this list of important features.” 

    Computer Science solved this decades ago, with the API. A good API seperates the primitive functions provided by the core from the higher level features those who would skillfully wield the API build in pursuit of solving a segments of User problems in the name of User dollars. Trouble seems to be that while for a bunch of coders making “an API” is almost as simple it is for Joe the SMB to make a spreadsheet, most APIs and most spreadsheets aren’t very good. In fact, if you’ve ever taught the art of spreadsheets (which I have), you realize that most spreadsheets are insanely bad – which is to say most spreadsheet makers are bad at making spreadsheets.

    Constructing a good API requires two things that while they go hand in hand, they are almost unheard of in our modern fast-before-good high-tech times: 1) a deep understanding of the domain and 2) a modest appetite. 

    I believe that both went off the rails in the 1990′s when honest tech people allowed tech writers to turn GUI and OS into synonyms. It’s not fair to blame the tech writers, they were just writing what the biggest tech guys were saying. And Microsoft and Apple were using the terms as synonyms, because of a failing of #2. Appetite. 

    I believe it fair to say that the best big-time example of an API that suffers a lack of #1 is Twitter. Without going into details, ask yourself this question. If Twitter had what could fairly be called a “deep” understanding of the domain and an API that relected it would they have so much trouble monetizing it? Of course the simple answer is no. In a free market economy if you provide a good or service that hundreds of millions of people want you can’t blame anyone but yourself if you don’t profit from it. Believe me, I’m not talking about Twitter profits at the expense of developer profits. The right API monetizes the ecosystem so that everyone profits in proportion to the value they bring to the ecosystem. No more. No less.

    But back to the subject at hand. Google clearly has dropped the ball in terms of plain old fashioned Computer Science systems design with Google+ brand pages. They’ve taken the fast-before-good approach intoxicated by their wild success in acquiring millions of free users of the Google+ platform ( no small feat ). They haven’t published an API to let the marketplace profit from creating value, failing #1 and #2, in my opinion. 

    The amazing part of the story to me is this: Google+ Brand Pages could have been the first best customer for the Google+ API. This was Google’s golden opportunity to create an internal team that placed demands on the platform like no one else could – to beat it up to be ready for primetime for the developer community. 

    This is where I go full circle and blame Computer Science. History has proven over and over that the science of the API was/is insufficient without the art of the good API. After so many decades isn’t it about time someone plugs that hole, fills that gap? I guess as long as the someones are all twitters and googles and microsofts, the answer is going to remain, “no” and the solutions will stay unsatisfying. 

    The trouble with Google+ Brand Pages is far deeper than a bunch of missing features. But there is hope. I’m still hopeful. Even though Google seems to have passed on their chance to advance Computer Science with Google+, there are still quite a few cloud computing companies young enough, with enough at stake, that one, in the name of breaking out of the pack, may be willing to push the envelope to define cloud not just in terms of where data is stored but also what information, itself, is. Google passed. Cloud is our next best hope, in my opinion.


    1. That’s one of the deepest comments I’ve seen in quite some time and one I totally agree with. I think there is a fear of dependencies, too. After all, if you build something on one team that another team relies on, well, then, you have to do real work and there is real politics involved there. 

    2. Are you sure?
      Did google spend 5 months slapping a square 32×32 icon on the profile pages? 

      Or is this fully prepped for dropping all of Google’s apps onto it?

      Are pages optimized for a more robust API? Is there a new API that is waiting to be dropped onto the whole platform tying everything together? 

      Do you know this? I don’t. 

      The problems I have with Pages are the lack of !@#$ing drag and drop image placement in the profile image header. WTF!? Also, there should be linking ability on your images to your site or somewhere else in your sphere of influence instead of in the lightbox – or at least links in the caption below the lightbox. 

      I had a whole list running through my mind but didn’t write it down.

      They blew it with the interface, not the feature set. It’s a skeleton set of features, and that’s fine for a release. But the interface really kind of sucks.

      I think there’s a bunch of high-falutin hatin’ going on here because it didn’t come out of the box like a facebook page – which has it’s own set of limitations, and if you’ve had one as long as I have you’d know that there have been massive improvements from the first 24 hours of the release. 

  14. Good points, Robert!

    I am confident that Google will solve those issues. I mean look at how far they could evolve the AdWords Interface (its flagship product) and others.

    What you are experiencing right now is the burden of being an early adopter.


  15. I’m glad all the branded pages look alike.  If I want to go to a business’s customized webpage, I’ll go to their webpage.  Your content should make your brand page noteworthy, not your fancy code.    I want to put your company in a circle and have interesting convos and info pop up in my stream that will drive interest in your products, I don’t want companies just trying to get me to their page so they can bury me in spin.

    As others have said, Google is already working on all the things you have talked about.  Apparently they decided to release the tool before every feature was implemented so that the people that know how to handle things can take it on themselves.  It’s a tool for people that know what they’re doing or want to experiment, and they’ll make it more idiot proof shortly.

    The feature I really want Google to implement, mostly to soothe the fears of others, is the ability to block all posts from Google+ Pages, even when they’re re-shared by other people.

    But I view Google+ and Pages in a “how will this be good for consumers that want more information?” and not “how will this be good for companies that want more money?” way.

    1. I want a filter system so that I can filter stuff out of my main stream. Not sure if it possible at the moment but Google should make it a priority. 

  16. I don´t know if I have wrong, but if I should make pages on G+ I propebly used Google Apps and then makes profiles there and give them rights. G+ is on Apps so that should be working I think. ;)

  17. This would be the time a third-party editor or app would be great, unfortunately the API isn’t ready for primetime.

    I did not set-up a brand yesterday because of the shortcomings you noted. The manner Goolge+ has currently set the Brands is a PR nightmare waiting to happen. If you work as a social media agent for a brand that’s already a lightning rod for controversy, you will be juggling hand grenades until there are team and review features added. 

    A developer than can bring an editorial type frontend application to market would be rocking right now. So come on Google, open the API up.

    1. What do you think these pages will do for those companies that do ” Brand Reputation management”?

      Does this just make their jobs harder? 

  18. I find it really odd that they’re launching without the ability to have an admin team manage pages. Add to this the fact that I can’t import my circles from my personal G+ account to my corporate account, and you’ve got another set of problems that could have been avoided.  

    1. Thanks Jody, that was my post; appreciate you sharing it here.

      I am co-managing the +Dell business page on Google+ (I lead our @Dell:twitter account on twitter.).

      Our team was trying to figure out the key differences on the business page features vs. personal profiles, so I did what Google would do – Search! and then I shared my findings … a nice tidy explanation on a Google+ help page. Glad it helped so many!

  19. I’m wondering how the G+ brand pages compare with facebook’s pages? That’s the real issue. Honestly, now that these pages exist, having a page is mandatory, regardless of the feature set. 
    This is the new yellow pages. 

  20. I too wish I had read this before making my page for 1stAngel.  It’s a nightmare and I find that people do not want to circle it as they already have me circled.  I have put on a load of posts but I find it impersonal and feel I am talking to the wind and I cannot get any of my team on there so I am the only poster.

    On my personal profile I have loads of people and chat.  I wish I had waited.  Tempted to just link the page to me LOL

  21. Umm… visitors don’t see your feed. They see your content only when they come to your page. Your stream is only fed to you… right?

      1. My page has circled people and their content shows on my page stream… but only to me, which is also very confusing.

        1. It’s the [your page] stream. Your stream is a collection of people who you have circled, that’s all… Your pages stream is a collection of people that your page has circled. It’s there so you can see what people who like your page are talking about. I’d use it as intelligence in my market.

          I think people get really confused by the non-reciprocal nature of G+. Nobody posts to your wall on G+.

          I think it’s really funny that Scoble doesn’t know this or totally forgot about it.

      2. Your stream is your stream – not someone else’s – nobody sees your stream but you and apps that use the API, I’m pretty sure…

        The reason for this, I believe, is so you can see what people who have circled your page are talking about. 

        Also, I believe my page can circle people as long as they circle my page first. 

  22. My small business is +classiclegacy I can not figure out how to post to this Google+ business account. I am the only admin…..and when I try to post it takes me to my personal account……I only posted the initial post and now I don’t know how to post again……any advice????

    1. Over on the left is your picture when you sign into Google+. There’s a little drop-down menu that lets you switch between your personal account and your business page. It’s hard to find, I know, they should have made it easier to figure out.

    2. Look at your picture on the left. There’s a gray arrow under your name with the words “1 page” next to it.  Click on the arrow.  You’ll see  your company page logo.  Click on it.

  23. Aw, man, I wish I’d read your post before I impulsively created a page for our business! Instead I fired ahead, thinking I’d figure out how to allow my collaborators to add content to the page. Presumably the features will catch up with us, but it’ll be hard to invest totally in Google+ for our business if everything has to be filtered through me.

  24. “Or do I post it to both (which will look spammy to customers who follow both of us).” <– i see this as becoming a huge issue. People still want the most visibility for their content and so they will post in both places forever. Or they will post on the brand page and then share onto their older personal page.

    1. I impulsively created a page for ZEDO, with whom I have been doing some consulting, because I knew if I didn’t, no one would. Now I realize that was probably a big mistake, for all the reasons Robert mentioned. I suppose it would have been better to have created it as francine@zedo.com, my GoogleApps account, but I didn’t. Now what? When my consulting ends, will I have to abandon the page and they will have to re-claim it?

  25. eh? the same google+ pages rants again? I’m getting tired of this stuffs already. haha. didn’t even bothered finishing the whole rant

      1. no it’s not. you are like the 304th person who whined about the same reasons. :), multi-admin issues… etc etc. :),

  26. This is becoming perplexing!  I completely agree with your points…  Google what is going on?  If you all can’t get the feature set right OPEN UP THE API!  You all seriously need some third party involvement and fast!

  27. I completely agree with you…I am horribly underwhelmed by the Google+Pages release. You would think that with five months, and the very public lessons learned for FB pages, they would have had a much more robust opening volley. Google is shaking my faith, lately…

    1. Yeah, and I didn’t even discuss the lack of branding and differentiation. Every brand page and post looks like every other brand page and post. Very boring and very non-interesting for brands. 

      1. As a very small company, I’m liking the +page so far. What you are seeing as limitations, I am seeing as a level playing field. The small companies can’t afford lots of digital bells and whistles. It’ll be fun to see how innovative and interesting the big companies can be when given the basics. It’s as if everyone only had pen and paper again. I hope G+ keeps it simple for a while.

      2. I actually can’t see the months of testing that went into this and the invite to business’s to take part in Beta (I know I filled in that form) and to be given this is so disappointing.

        What were these beta testers doing for so long and looking at it now what is to test?

      3. I actually can’t see the months of testing that went into this and the invite to business’s to take part in Beta (I know I filled in that form) and to be given this is so disappointing.

        What were these beta testers doing for so long and looking at it now what is to test?

  28. Those are all valid points. And it’s really weird/strange that these issues have not been raised at all by the few selected companies who could test these brand Pages over the past months! Or if those beta-testers did raise those points, why Google still went public with the Pages without having addressed thosed issues first.

    Clearly it was not properly feature-tested. Maybe Google should have hired Robert to beta-test new features and help them streamline the experience!

  29. Hi Robert, if you need to collaborate with your coworkers I suggest you Searcheeze.com (disclosure: I’m the ceo). It’s a collaborative content curation platform, we’re still in beta and still working on important features to be released. Give us some more time to finish the product and you won’t be disappointed. It could definitely be the product for you, thanks!

    1. If that would be true (and not just a advertisement) you are surely happy to explain how working with your product will put the content on the plattform g+ where the users and the interaction is.

    1. Yes, as a matter of fact I do.

      Because in this particular instance, Facebook has already offered me the moon on a stick, and Google announced that it would provide me a better moon on an improved stick.

      What we got was a lollipop that didn’t even get to the third lick of the Tootsie Roll test.

      1. Couldn’t agree more! Why would you roll out something that isn’t fully ready when there are other better platforms around? It’s one thing if you’re trying out a totally new or revolutionary concept, then you need feedback and you tweak it along the way. I wonder whether they’ve taken feedback from the big brands who were allowed to make their pages first…

  30. Most of the stuff they are already working on. I am with you that most of these things you just mentioned should have been there from the launch. Not sure why it took them several months to come up with something that seems not finished. 

  31. @kosso:disqus You might want to check out http://www.ayloo.net for a social network that does just what you describe with squares (called Streams over there). Google+ would do well to have a look too…

  32. They say they’ll be adding the ‘admin’ accounts soon. ie: other people who can post to a page. ‘group’ ownership etc. That sort of thing.

    One thing I will be using my “Kosso Research Labs” page for, is to put all the info about the various products, services and experiments I’ll be launching soon. All in one pace/stream.

    That way it can act like a kind filter for people who only want to ‘follow me’ who care about just those things, rather than have to be subjected to all the other random stuff I write or share. 

    I am way, that’s a kind of ‘hack’ – since Google needs to really add ‘squares’, which could be categories/filters which people could create.

    eg: You might have a ‘photography’ square, a ‘geek’ square and a ‘gadget’ square, but people who circle you could decide to only see posts in their stream by you from your ‘photography square’.

    That would be nice, eh? ;) 

    1. * Robert, requiring the permission of several people to post on a company social media account might be playing it a little too safe and avoid the spontaneity that comes from a free flow of thoughts. Everybody has their own opinions, but I would reconsider that.

      * My guess is that it will take more than a few days to add this feature or they would have waited to launch with it right from the start. At least a couple weeks I bet. 
      * I’m glad that Google is slowly approaching feature “parity” with Facebook but its going to take more than that to get any semblance of relative momentum. Businesses have been working on developing their business pages on Facebook for years now and there’s an entire ecosystem devoted to promoting Facebook pages at http://www.buyfacebookfansreviews.com. It seems unlikely that a marginal offering from Google will entice companies to really devote any significant resources here. I think Google has somewhat of a shot to grow their market here, but they’re so far behind right now that its not fathomable that simply copying Facebook’s features is going to win this war. 

    2. yeah it won’t take them long to get a handle on just how this links in the with normal G+ account. Still not convinced of its real use, but because its google, you have to play ball.

  33. for what matters they are already working on multi-admin support, ownership transfer and page analytics

      1. I do not think that even with multi admin support will change that, but what it will do is just cut down on the workload for one individual. They still have these issues no matter what (maybe even more cause too many are managing it!

      2. I do not think that even with multi admin support will change that, but what it will do is just cut down on the workload for one individual. They still have these issues no matter what (maybe even more cause too many are managing it!

    1. What does not make sense is how they could take five months to produce something that is basically a *normal* G+ account with the ability to have the account itself +1ed. What else is actually new or different about these?

  34. Welcome to the world of Federated Identity matters :-) Google+ has a flawed kernel re. Identifiers. As showcased by the Nymwars imbroglio, it just doesn’t have Identity properly woven into its fabric :-(

      1. maybe they are building their learning curve on a trial and experiment basis. at the end of the day, they are pretty newbies on the social web. sure though you provided a long list of fixes! let’s wait

    1. Is that you guessing, or is it because it clearly states both of those facts when you create your G+ Page (where I first learned those features were coming soon)? ;)

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