Google is working on a version of its Google+ social networking service for businesses and will roll it out later this year, according to a manager on the Google+ team.
Christian Oestlien posted a YouTube video (embedded below) urging businesses NOT to set up pages on Google+ today — the current service is designed for consumers.
But Oestlien promised that Google+ has a team of engineers working on a “similarly optimised business experience” for businesses that will include “rich analytics and the ability to connect that identity to other parts of Google that businesses might use on a daily basis, like AdWords.”
That’s the system that lets businesses by search ads.
So far, Google+ is ad-free, and the business justification has been to collect more information about links between users and their interests, which can help improve Google’s search results.
Although Google has been careful not to mention Facebook by name, Google+ is also obviously aimed at stealing some users (or at least attention) back from Facebook, which could help Google keep ad budgets from shifting away from Google to Facebook.
But this is the first time Google has explicitly said it would tie Google+ into an advertising product.
There are lots of ways this could work — for instance, ad links might encourage users to add a particular brand to their Google+ Circles, which would then allow the company to communicate more directly. Imagine receiving messages from Starbucks about discounts right on your Google+ news feed, for instance.
There are tons of other interesting possibilities as well — Google is slowly rolling out a daily deals service, Offers, for instance. So imagine a system where merchants can automatically target Offers to every customer who has added that company to a Circle. Talk about qualified leads!
Oestlien also said that Google is testing Google+ with a small group of businesses today to see how well brand pages work with features like Circles. The sign-up sheet is here.