It's been a few days since Google rolled out Pages for Google+ and I wanted to share my experience with them from both sides of the fence; as a content consumer and as a content publisher.
First I should set the stage. It seems fashionable among tech pundits to decry Google+ as a failure, claim no one is using it or predict its imminent demise. As someone who actually uses Google+ I think those pundits are off their gourds. Like any other social network, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it and who you're in contact with; we each have our own 'view' of these services. This is particularly true of Google+ due to the Circle metaphor where personal content can and should be aimed at interested parties rather than tossed out among the flotsam and jetsam of "public."
Of course, I also remember when the pundits were saying Twitter would never amount to anything because it was nothing but people sharing what they had for lunch. As the saying goes, haters gonna hate.
In any event, my 'view' of Google+ is full of people sharing and discussing interesting content. My only real concern about the service is that it's so darned distracting. It's threatening my productivity!
So back to Pages.
As a consumer, I'm quite pleased. I created two new Circles, one for friends' blogs and the other for Brands. In the latter I've added sources like The New York Times, PBS, NPR, Android and The Los Angeles Times. I've found that these have all been sharing an interesting variety of content. I could get all this stuff via RSS I know, but what I'm getting on Google+ is curated; they don't just blast everything they have at their Google+ page. I don't have time to skim the full RSS feeds of all these sources every day (and in the case of Android it's not reflecting a single source anyway) but I do have time to read the odd post from topics outside of my normal purview. My "Brands" Circle is like the Internet Variety Hour.
I've shared my Brands Circle publicly on Google+, in case anyone is interested in seeing the full list. (ITworld is in my Circle, of course, but I'm a little biased so I'll let you judge how good it is!)
You might ask how I know if these are 'official' pages. Fact is at this point I don't, and I don't really care as long as they're sharing content that is interesting to me. I'm confident that Google will bring its "Verified Profile" program to Pages sooner rather than later, but I'm satisfied for now. We've weathered the 'fake profile' issue on every other social network and we can weather it here, too.
As a content provider, I'm still on the fence. I, like so many others, immediately created a page for my (personal) blog, but I'm not sure how it is benefiting me. If you look at the brands I'm following, few of them have a 'face' (that I know of, anyway) so they're all 'new content' to me. But my blog is generally read by friends and acquaintances and they already have me in their Circles; it almost seems redundant to ask them to follow my blog's page, too. And it seems like busy work having to switch between my profile and my blog's profile to check for new comments. I might just use the blog page as a place holder that refers people to my personal profile; for search reasons I think its important that the page exists.
This issue isn't limited to personal blogs. Another example is the SyFy Channel's page. SyFy's social media guru, Craig Engler (his official title is Senior VP & General Manager of Digital at the SyFy Channel) was already in my Circles and feeding me great content from SyFy and other sources. It isn't clear what I can expect from the SyFy Page that I won't get direct from Engler.
I think the take-away is that Pages are better suited to companies that are new to Google+. Of course for a company to join the service and create their page, they first have to create a personal profile for someone and then hang the Page off that. This process seems a bit convoluted to me, plus it disallows having several people administrate a single page.
So there are certainly some birthing pains as we all figure out the best way to use Pages, and certainly the feature still has rough edges, but this is Google. Like it or not, they tend to launch rough and then polish via iterating based on feedback. Pages are good now but I'm confident they'll get better.
If you haven't tried Google+ yet, don't listen to the doom and gloom from the pundits. Try the service, do some searches on topics that interest you and start Circling people who're talking about those topics. Google+ takes some nurturing, and it tends to be a place of conversation rather than 'status updates' that don't invite response. It might take a week or so before you start getting your community going, but in my opinion it's a great service and has become my preferred social network.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.