Hate it or love it, Google+ launched June 2011, and some consider it a strange anomaly in the social networking space. Though cheered and supported — unlike its previous social/collaboration products like Google Wave and Google Buzz — Google+ has yet to reach the audience sizes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
In the natural evolution and confluence of social business, Google today announced the launch of Google+ for Business: making public social network functionality appropriate for use inside the enterprise — and charging for it.
Google is launching an initial set of Google+ features designed specifically for businesses that will integrate seamlessly with the tools included in its Google Apps productivity suite. [Disclaimer: JXB1 is a Google Apps customer.]
The two biggest features include the ability to restrict posts or add a level of privacy to messaging. The other is a full integration of Hangouts, or group video chat for up to 10 participants, into Google Apps, including private, company-only meetings and allowing team members to join a Hangout from within a Calendar event and share Google Docs within a Hangout meeting (pretty cool, if you ask me, and obviating the need for a teleconferencing vendor).
This move is clearly adding value for current Google Apps customers — and will be free until the end of 2013, according to TechCrunch. It is no surprise that Google will eventually start charging for these services, considering the inroads it has made into the enterprise market.
It is also shrewd to find a way to make money off of its effort to build Google+, as advertising — the dominant revenue model for all social networks — has clearly demonstrated itself to be a softer market than previously thought.
With Microsoft’s $1.2 billion purchase of Yammer in June, I’ll also be on the lookout for tighter integrations between the enterprise social platform and the online versions of its productivity software. Microsoft also owns Skype, and perhaps enterprise Skype videocalls might become more ubiquitous.