If it can't lure more users away from Facebook, Google has another plan for its social network: go after business users.
Thus far, Google+ has not been able to make huge inroads in Facebook's market. So now the company is turning its attention to a different market. Note to Yammer: Watch your back.
Google+ recently launched its first set of features designed specifically for businesses.
It's an interesting play, considering that 40 million individuals and 4 million businesses are already using the Google Apps business suite. Now all those people can make apps like Gmail, Calendar, and Docs more social.
Google Apps customers can now mark Google+ posts as restricted, meaning they're only shared with--and can't be re-shared beyond--people within a particular company or organization. And while Google has already integrated the Google+ Hangout video chat feature into Gmail and lets users collaborate on a Google doc inside a Hangout, now you can add a Hangout to a Calendar event so you can join a video chat directly from an invite or Calendar entry. Google also added administrator controls for post restriction and business Hangouts.
Since launching Google+ last summer, Google has integrated aspects of its social network across many of its products, while at the same time downplaying any comparison to Facebook. Last month Google+ creators even suggested to Mashable that Google+ isn't a social network at all, but rather "an upgrade to Google."
"People have a hard time understanding that," Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president of social business, told the tech site. "I think they like to compare us with other social competitors, and they see us through that lens instead of really seeing what's happening: Google is taking its amazing products, and by bringing them together, they just become more awesome."
Although Google might not like being compared to others, there's no doubt pushing Google+ into the enterprise market is about competition. After all, Microsoft just acquired Yammer for $1.2 billion. As a result, Microsoft Exchange--one product that competes with Google Apps--will likely be getting more social.
Still, Google+ has its doubters and the idea that it's a ghost town seems to persist, in spite of the engagement stats the company has provided. Google says it has 250 million total users, 150 million of whom use Google+ every month with half of them signing in daily--that's 75 million people using it every day.
Will that number continue to rise? It's likely, in my opinion. Google isn't giving up on Google+, rather quite the opposite.
"These latest business features for Google+... are just a start. We have a lot more planned for the coming months," wrote Clay Bavor, product management director for Google Apps, in a blog post.
The new features are free for now. You can expect a mobile version of Google+ for the enterprise market soon.
CHRISTINA DESMARAIS is an Inc.com contributor who writes about the tech start-up community, covering innovative ideas, news, and trends. Have a tip? Email her at christinadesmarais (at) live (dot) com. @salubriousdish