5 Things Google+ Offers Brands That Facebook Doesn’tThe world of social media moves very quickly. It can be hard keeping up with all the new tools and social networks being introduced, let alone accurately weigh the pros and cons of one platform over another.

Just last month, businesses were invited to join Google+ with the introduction of Brand Pages — Google’s attempt to compete against the well-established and very popular Facebook Pages. Many people are asking, “What does Google+ offer brands that Facebook doesn’t?” Here are five answers to that question.

1. Circles

Google Circles
Here’s where Google+ came out of the gates running. Circles enable Google+ members, including brands, to categorize everyone they’re connected to. For example, businesses can create circles of their brand page connections into targeted groups for better messaging in the future.

You can separate your customers from your colleagues and online influencers from your business partners. The options are endless and bode well for businesses’ use of Google+ as focused method of reaching various target audiences.

2. Hangouts

Google Hangouts

While Facebook does offer the ability to hold video calls with your friends through integration with Skype, Google+ integrates video chats between you and up to nine other Google+ users through its Hangouts feature. Hangouts can be used for used for things like small-group webinars, question and answer sessions, and more.

You can start a Hangout by inviting some of your Google+ connections, but as they share the hangout with their own audiences, more and more people can potentially join. That means people who aren’t currently connected to you on Google+ can join your hangout, giving your brand exposure to new audiences. The 10-person limit provides an opportunity to promote “exclusive” video chats and special discussions.

3. Saved Searches

Google+ Sparks

Through the Saved Searches feature (sometimes referred to as Sparks) Google+ makes it very easy to keep track of Google+ member updates and conversations related to your brand. For example, you can enter a keyword related to your business, and see recent, relevant content. You can save your search and display it in your Google+ sidebar to keep track of content and conversations that matter to your brand.

4. Ripples

Google+ Ripples

While Google+ doesn’t currently offer the type of Brand Page analytics that Facebook Pages provide through Facebook Insights, it’s safe to assume that Google Analytics integration will happen down the road. In the meantime, Google Ripples tracks the “ripple effect” that happens as people share your content across the Google+ platform.

A Google Ripple is an interactive diagram that exists for any public post that you publish on Google+. You can access the data using the drop-down menu to the right of the specific post you want to analyze. The data provided shows you the top people who shared your content, the sharing timeline, and more. You can even view sharing from within specific circles and sharing by top influencers.

5. Direct Connect

Google+ Direct Connect

Google is the largest and most popular search engine in the world, so it’s likely that Google+ will ultimately play a role in Google’s search algorithm. Already, search engine optimization experts are noting measurable effects that Google’s +1 button (similar to Facebook’s Like button) is having on search results.

With the launch of Direct Connect, web searchers can find a Brand Page on Google+ simply by entering a plus-sign before a brand name in the search box (for example, “+Google”). Instead of receiving a list of search results, a person is taken directly to the Brand Page on Google+. Direct Connect is still in beta with a limited number of brands participating, but it will likely be rolled out to more brands and businesses soon.

[Image credits: Meneame Comunicacions, brewbooks, Flachland Tapir, Cathy Kaplan, Hilde Vanstraelen, Ahmadreza Sarkaki]