Getting to grips with Google Plus
WRITTEN BY VANESSA CLARK, MOBIFLOCK MARKETING DIRECTOR - [email protected]
Barely out of diapers, social networks Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we work and play. Companies don’t just have Facebook pages anymore; they have all-singing, all-dancing mini-sites, run competitions to drive “likes” and have creative teams dreaming up new ways of “engaging with the fans”. Twitter is no longer just for broadcasting what you had for lunch; promoted tweets are a regular occurrence in our Twitter streams, and celebrities can make a tidy profit by endorsing a brand of trainers in a tweet.
But if there is one thing you can be certain of in 2011, as ever, it’s that change is the order of the day. And Google’s launch of its social network-esque site, Google+, in June means that business owners and consumers alike need to work out what this means for them.
At time of writing, Google hasn’t launched the business-focused side of Google+ yet, bar a few early tests with companies such as Ford and has been actively booting off any businesses that try to sneak in via a personal profile. But, apparently based on feedback since the launch, the search giant has said it is bringing forward the launch date of its Google+ business services.
In a July 14 blog post Christian Oestlien, Group Product Manager at Google, said the company was speeding up its development plans for Google+ for businesses. “Your interest has got us very focused on accelerating our development plans,” he wrote.Just a week before, Oestlien had said a trial with a select group of companies would take place over “the next few months”.
In response, Facebook very quickly brought out Facebook for Business – less a new service and more a guide to Facebook’s offering to companies, but certainly an indication that the 750 million member strong king of social networks is taking Google+’s arrival very seriously.
Irrespective of Google’s timing, it clearly has something up its sleeve for businesses, else why not launch Google+ for businesses at the same time as the rest of the platform? Oestlien blogged: “How users communicate with each other is different from how they communicate with brands, and we want to create an optimal experience for both.” And that “we will have something to show the world later this year.The business experience we are creating should far exceed the consumer profile in terms of its usefulness to businesses”.
At present, Ford’s test Google+ doesn’t look that much different to the personal Google+ pages. The main addition seems to be a tab called “Buzz” which features Ford’s Twitter stream: good news for companies that have spend time and money on building their Twitter following and were worried they were not going to be able to leverage that via Google+.
So what else can businesses look forward to from Google+?
1. Advertising, analytics and search
These are Google’s bread and butter and certainly businesses are going to benefit from the extended reach of both. And breathe a sigh of relief that they don’t have to sign up to yet another ad channel. Just how Google will incorporate advertising into Google+ remains to be seen. On the search side, PC World pointed out that in early July Google stopped showing Facebook and Twitter content in its search results. The authors speculate that this is paving the way for Google+ content to be shown instead – a massive incentive for businesses constantly on the lookout for ways to improve their search engine rankings.
2. Business tools
Many small and medium businesses rely on Google Apps for a host of business tools including email, software and instant messaging. Ducttapemarketing points out that these capabilities are going to be extended thanks to Google+. Huddle offers a group chat feature, while Hangouts is a group video service. Sparks is an online social bookmarking tool and Circles is the cherry on the top that allows you to segment your contacts into various groupings, including colleagues, as opposed to Facebook’s veritable free-for-all. This will make using Google+ for business relationships much easier: for instance colleagues won’t see the pictures from your cousin’s 30th birthday party, unless they have also been added to your friends circle.
3. Privacy control
Not so much a tangible tool, but this could tip the mood in Google+’s favour. On the face of it, it certainly appears that Google has paid careful attention to Facebook’s privacy travails and decided to take the moral high ground when it comes to allowing the user far more control over what they share with whom. As mentioned, this makes using Google+ as a business tool as well as a social tool that much easier.
Other things for businesses to watch out for are e-commerce, mobile commerce, and how Google integrates Google+ with its maps. And, based on the flurry of interest from businesses and the over-subscribed trial, there is no doubt that Google+ is going to be a feature of most business’s online strategy very soon.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”