Google continues to tweak its Google+ social media platform as the company seeks to gain traction among businesses.
Google launched a preview of Google+ for business in August last year and is letting organisations use the business features for free until the end of 2013.
"Both within Australia and globally, we are seeing solid adoption" by businesses of Google+, according to Jeanne DeWitt, Head of Google Apps SMB Sales, Japan and APAC.
The service is used by both large and small companies, but DeWitt told Computerworld Australia that Hangouts, the videoconferencing feature of Google+, has proven especially popular among what DeWitt terms "the micro multinational."
"You may have four people in four different regions of the world these days," she said. "As a [small or medium-sized business], flying back and forth constantly isn't always an option."
DeWitt declined to provide specific usage numbers for the business flavour of Google's social media service. However, the Google official identified two Australian small businesses using Google+ and Hangouts: Above the Parapet, a marketing firm in Tweed Heads, New South Wales, and Shoes of Prey, an online retailer based in Sydney.
A recent GlobalWebIndex report by UK market research firm Trendstream found that in Q4 2012, Google+ became the second biggest social network worldwide among 16-65 year olds.
The number of active users on Google+ grew 27 per cent to 343 million users in the quarter, the report said. Facebook had the most users, with an estimated 903 million accounts.
In designing a business flavour of what began as a consumer platform, Google is "following on the general trend of consumerization of IT," DeWitt said. "A lot of what you're seeing on the consumer side also exists on the enterprise side. But on top of that, we realise that businesses do need additional administrative controls."
Google recently added the ability for businesses to restrict posting outside of the organisation in order to prevent people from publicly posting internal company information. More administrative controls are planned in future releases, "in response to things people have been asking for," DeWitt said.
"Google acknowledges the need for enterprise controls, but it believes the decision to allow data outside the organization should reside with the user, rather than administrators," Gartner analyst Matt Cain wrote in a Gartner report dated 28 November.
"Lack of a domain lockdown will make Google less competitive with Microsoft-with its newly acquired Yammer cloud social service-and therefore put it at a competitive disadvantage," Cain wrote.
"We know of cases where Google Apps customers have chosen alternatives to Google+, such as Salesforce.com's Chatter, precisely because of this issue."
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