(Guest post by Jen Lee Reeves, interactive director at KOMU.com, which was the first local TV station to use Google Hangouts on the air. She’s also an Associate Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.)
The day after Google+ was open for invites was the day I created the KOMU 8 News account. For 19 glorious days I played with its potential as a brand at the same time I tried to understand its uses as an individual.
I immediately recognized the differences. The KOMU brand page (the new location is here) was a chance to share updates from our newsroom and encourage input from people who want to discuss news topics. I started having fun creating geographic circles in hopes of sending extensive “extras” to regions we cover on a regular basis in our newsroom. I took note of people and where they said they work. Major employer circles might help me in times of breaking news. I also reached out and asked people who circled our newsroom what topics they like to hear from us. I considered the idea of topic specific delivery in G+. That’s what’s so fun about circles. I was having fun learning and sharing in this space as a brand. But the account was suspended 19 days after I had started. Days after I had created the account, Google asked brands to shut down and stay away. We were asked to wait for the rollout of brands (which ended up happening on November 7). All that I had built was gone.
I tried to replicate the brand relationship I had built in Google+, but i couldn’t. As a representative of mid-Missouri’s NBC affiliate, my individual page was more than just sharing content from my newsroom. I could talk about innovations in the journalism industry, cool tech tools and topics that are important to me in the special needs parenting world. Not all of these topics are of interest to the KOMU viewers. That’s why circles are so cool. But I found myself meeting wonderful people outside of my circles if I posted to the public on my individual account. I felt stymied on what I could or couldn’t post if I just used my G+ account for my newsroom. I chose to use Google+ more as a person than as the KOMU brand.
So the day finally came to bring back KOMU. There are some distinct changes:
1) Brand pages cannot circle you unless you circle them first. This is really smart in the world of spam prevention. But as a brand it’s hard to manage so far.
2) There are no alerts. When my brand page gets followed, there’s no handy red box that pops up at the top that shows me my latest circlers. I don’t know when a new person posted a comment on any of my posts. I also do not know if KOMU’s content was shares or mentioned. That makes it VERY hard to interact in a consistent manner inside what is considered a social tool.
3) Brand pages do not auto-refresh when new content is added to posts.
4) So far my brand isn’t able to share circles. It may be a glitch but my account sometimes falls back into the old account. I can see the old circles I created but I have no permissions to use them anymore. I’m rebuilding everything again. Seeing the old account makes me a bit nostalgic.
5) There is only one account manager. There is growing chatter by social journalism managers who are hoping multiple accounts will be able to manage a brand page so we can all sleep and see our family periodically.
Of course today is just the second day. Google’s leadership has been very good at listening to input as this tool has grown. It will be interesting to see if making changes to the brand pages is a focus for G+ managers. I hope it is because my newsroom would like to use G+ as a serious way to share our content and connect with our market and beyond. A high functioning brand page will really help make that happen.