What Does Google+ Mean For Small Businesses?

    September 5, 2011

With the recent launch of Google+, there has been considerable focus paid to debating the merits of Google+ vs. Facebook. However, beyond direct comparison of apples and oranges, there’s a bigger story at play here for Google+.

Since its start in 1998, Google has been building and amassing an entire universe of web tools. From email and calendars to Google Docs, advertising, payment processing, site analytics, mobile, and third party apps for everything in between, the ‘Google Universe’ now offers a complete hub for its users.

The missing piece in this Google Universe has always been social…until now. Google+ has the capacity to bring all these tools together with people at the center of their new social hub.

What does Google+ mean for the small businesses?

Google Apps Marketplace and Google’s Chrome Web Store are extensive marketplaces for web applications that host everything from accounting to project management applications, CRM to full blow ERP applications. Google+ Circles provides the social glue for co-workers who are using Google’s business apps.

Google+ has the potential to become the feed or conversation manager for all the apps that are managing activity inside of a business. It offers an expansive, easy to manage to unite all business communications within a Google+‘s feed.

Small businesses are migrating, over 3 million so far away from expensive on premise software solutions to Google Apps for their IT infrastructure in the cloud.  This presents Google+ with a unique advantage to penetrate the small business market.

Single platform or best-of-breed?

Another key question for users is whether the benefit of having a series of best-of-breed tools presents a clear enough advantage over a single source for all business interactions. With best-of-breed, users get top-notch functionality and feature sets, however, they’re left with a fragmented experience.

Purchasing managers, IT, and end users are left juggling a patchwork of vendors and individual tools that don’t always play well together. Microsoft for IT, Oracle for the backend infrastructure, Facebook for marketing and social, LinkedIn for work connections, PayPal for payments… integrations across all these tools can be complex and expensive.

When we look back over the history of computing, we see a recurring trend where users migrate from individual tools to a unified platform. It’s a similar pattern with every computing platform since the mainframe.

Traditionally, whenever a new computing platform emerges, a large number of software vendors flood the market and are purchased by business departments or individuals at a high unit cost. Then over time, a unified application emerges on the scene, setting off a wave of conversions away from point pieces to the single solution.

This same pattern is set to repeat with Google, particularly in the small business segment. It’s no secret that small businesses have already been looking to replace desktop software and move toward a web-only environment. Online tools offer an ease of use, accessibility, and low cost that typical enterprise software just can’t match. And even web-based apps can be cumbersome if users are required to jump back and forth between apps and vendors to access point solutions for each bit of functionality.

With the addition of Google+, small businesses now have a complete hub in Google that extends far beyond document sharing. Google offers a viable web-based alternative for all that’s needed to keep the wheels turning day in and day out. In short, it’s becoming possible to run an entire business based on the Google ecosystem alone.

For the small business, we know that simplicity is best. With Google, capital spending goes way down as users can access these tools on the web, and largely for free. Even more importantly, life is much easier for the small business as the full suite of tools is in one place, and integrated right out of the box.

Unlike Facebook, Google+ is less about a place to hang out and connect with friends. Rather, it’s a way to tie all the pieces of the Google Universe together and give easy access to the full suite of Google tools through a single toolbar. History shows that the benefit of an integrated system will draw small businesses away from point, best-of-breed solutions.