Going Gaga Over The Google+ API?

Nov 21st, 2011 by Roman Blanyar

The rumor that Google has built the better mousetrap to Facebook’s business pages has been around for some time. Anticipation is like that of rabid fans waiting to see what Lady Gaga will wear at her next appearance. Now we’re finally seeing some results from Google’s long research and development process. But the reviews so far are…mixed.

Google+ was launched in June to great fanfare, but growth has been stymied as developers wait for the APIs to catch up to user demand. With more than 40 million users, Computerworld just reported that Google+ had its third-largest traffic week since the June launch. Average visit time rose 15% in October, increasing its viability as a potential business communications medium. At the same time, Inside Facebook reports that Facebook lost six million U.S. users in May, while the U.K., Norway and Russia all decreased as well.

While Google’s brand pages have been touted as the next big thing after Facebook, some Facebook users are already realizing that social networking is more complex than marketing or straight-forward advertising. Some companies conducted massive campaigns to get consumers to “like” them and achieved impressive results. But they have done nothing since to interact with those prospects and customers, or to keep them engaged with their business. The initial money invested in the campaign provided nothing more than an image boost, without building business.

Google is trying to overcome these drawbacks to relationship-building by introducing the new Google+ API (Application Programming Interface) in phases. The first roll-out began in September with Google+ Brand Pages, but response was so overwhelming they asked brands to stop creating pages while they worked on the next steps. In October more API functions were opened to outside developers. Anticipation is building again as word is leaking out that read-only photo and video APIs are imminent.

The Google+ API will eventually provide the opportunity for developers to integrate apps or websites with forums other than Google+, but it currently provides read-only access to public data that people have shared on Google+. This will give website owners and their marketing teams the ability to retrieve the public profile information of Google+ users. Imagine the possibilities this will open up for clients that are attempting to share content and build relationships with customers and prospects across applications. If they could read comments made in public posts or know what somebody had re-posted, how helpful would that be in crafting a response that is likely to motivate an action?

Applications are limited to a courtesy usage quota because it is still in the “preview” stage. You can request a higher courtesy limit but their goal is really to have you start thinking about how to build future applications. The APIs are based on current standards so you won’t have to learn any new programming styles, and should be easy to adopt. All API calls require either an OAuth 2.0 security token or an API key. And resources returned from the API only come in a JSON format. Additional information is provided on the Google APIs Console Help page.

The ability to interface across applications other than Google+ and access to private data are significant to website developers as they build sites that encourage communication and foster conversations. One thing developers can do while waiting for the next rollout is think about how to use Google+ to increase business. While some developers may try to figure out how to add the latest gadgets, the best plan is to figure out why to add them. What are the goals of the website and what can be done to make sure those goals are achieved? Is the purpose to educate, sell, build relationships or something else? Will this new ability help achieve that goal? If not, don’t use it.

Current uses of the Google+ Developer API may be limited, but we still have work to do now in preparation for the full-featured version. Some questions developers can begin formulating answers to include:

  • How can we use Google+ APIs to help clients achieve their marketing goals?
  • How does this ability integrate with the overall marketing plan?
  • How will we use the data that will become available?
  • How can we use the interface to build conversations with prospects and customers?
  • How will we monitor conversations while keeping the site fresh and engaging?

It's not time to go gaga over Google+ yet, but that time may be coming soon. At Off-Site Services, we will monitor the progress of Google+ and anticipate integrating the best features into future client projects. What questions do you have about how to incorporate Google+ APIs into your online presence? Leave a comment or call, and we’ll help make sure Google+ is good for you.

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