Google announced today the long-awaited introduction of Google+ profiles for brands, businesses, and organizations, calling them Google+ Pages.

The new Pages look very much like personal Google+ profiles, with a few additions:

Pepsi Google+ Page

  1. +1 Button: People viewing a brand’s page can “+1” it, which will cause it to show up as a recommendation when that person’s friends search on Google. +1’s for a brand will now be more coordinated across the web, and tied in with a brand’s Page. More about that below.
  2. A “Share this Page” button that, obviously, allows a viewer to share the page with his or her Google+ circles.

Other than that, Pages seem to have most of the same functions as a regular Google+ profile. Page owners can categorize followers by circles, post status updates to those circles, post photos and videos, and initiate Hangout group chats.

The “About” tab for brand Pages so far appears to be very simple, but one major superiority over Facebook Pages info tab is notable: text on Google+ Pages allows Google+ formatting (bold, italics, etc) and embedded links.

Google+ Pages About Tab

Important note! Unlike regular profiles, Pages cannot add anyone to their circles unless that person has first circled the Page (or “mentioned” the page with a hyperlinked reference, i.e. a “+” plus the Page’s name). This prevents Pages from spam following. On Google+, you will have to earn your followers by providing value and content that your followers will share with and recommend to their friends. And those are the kinds of followers you really want anyway, right?

So why should you get a Google+ Page for your brand?

Your brand has a Twitter feed, a Facebook Page, you post videos on YouTube…why do you need this one more social outpost?

  • It’s Google! The main reason Google has built and is investing so much into a social network is not to “me too!” Facebook and Twitter. It’s because Google realized that social interactions on the web are now a very valuable (perhaps the most valuable) signal for search rankings. At the same time, Google knew it had a very large and loyal “signed in” customer base through it mail and other products. Why not tap into that. Make no mistake: Google+ exists for Google to a) get signal about what should rank in its search results and b) gather data that will make targeted advertising better and more valuable. It makes sense to build a presence wherever Google is drawing those data points.
  • It’s Growing. While still much smaller than Facebook or Twitter, Google+ is the fastest-growing social network ever. From the top execs on down, Googlers have made it clear that Google is betting the company on the success of Google+. As they continue to tie more and more of the Google products people use every day into Google+, and add more and more rich features to G+ itself, I’m confident it will continue to grow.
  • Google+ Direct Connect. Direct connect is a new way for people to find brands’ Google+ Pages directly through Google search. Entering a + and the name of the brand in the search window will take someone directly to the brands’ Page, where they can choose to follow them on Google+. Try it out by entering +Toyota in Google search. Though this is limited now to a few brands, Google says they will roll it out broader over time. Instructions on how to best qualify for Direct Connect are here.
  • Add Power to your AdWords. According to the official AdWords blog, we will soon be able to tie your Google+ Page to your AdWords ads for your site. This will unify your +1 counts (presently, each unique page URL gets its own count) and make the +1 numbers that appear next to your ads even bigger, attracting more clicks.

As mentioned above, with Google+ Pages people won’t see your content unless they are following you. This means Google+ will be most rewarding for those brands who already know how to do social media right. You’ll want to be ready to:

  • Post interesting content that is relevant to your followers.
  • Post a variety of content. Make use of Google+’s rich display of photos and videos.
  • Display the +1 button everywhere.
  • Engage with followers. Encourage and participate in conversations about your posts.