“A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet. Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future. The billions of people around the globe who use the Internet should have a voice.”

A free and open web depends on taking a stand against governments who try to filter and censor content. And maybe the people you elected are using a closed-door meeting to regulate the Internet, where regulators try to change one of the most remarkable inventions of humanity.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) only listens to governments, with no place for engineers, companies, and people like you to have a saying on the future of the web. A secretive and bureaucratic organization were we, the users, are not welcomed.

Pledge to support a free and open Internet and invite your friends to #takeaction. Join this Google initiative at: http://www.google.com/takeaction

From the Queen’s Jubilee to the 2012 Olympics, London is getting a big share of attention, with lots of people visiting the city.

BBC Knowledge Australia and R&B Creative developed this great mashup using Google Styled Maps, invinting people to explore London. There’s also a challenge where you get to answer questions and get special codes for a chance to enter the draw and win a $4000 travel voucher and a brand new iPad.

If you aren’t lucky on unlocking your codes, you can always check their Facebook page for more tips.

I’ve been trying to pitch a Google Street View interactive campaign for a while, so it’s with mixed feelings — happy for the great use of technology, sad that i wasn’t hunca life convincing enough to make it real before – that i’m sharing this playful approach of Google Shoot View by Dutch agency Pool (who previously did Muppets Voices for TomTom).

As you can see from the teaser trailer, it all boils down to using your assault rifle on Google’s Street View scenery.

Not sure if the PG18+ is against Google’s terms of service (which got shorter), but from Columbine to the Tower of London, there’s plenty to choose from.

via Kotke

Now that Google+ Pages have been live for over a week and there’s a lot less noise amongst the digerati, it’s time for a short guide for businesses.

Google+ Pages: an overview

After a couple of months with Google+ ope only for individuals, last Monday Google+ Pages were introduced for businesses and brands, helping them to connect with their customers and fans, whether recommending a page with a +1 button or using the concept of circles for targeted messages for groups of customers.

Google+ is now available to all brands with Pages that can share publicly and connect with more than 40 million users (Source: Google Q3 Earnings call).

What’s new in Google+?

One of the more immediate and distinct features for businesses are Hangouts (here’s an funny one with the Muppets), a realtime video chat that was previously available only to individual users, and promises to be a great tool for customer service.

Direct Connect (video above) is another feature that shows how serious Google is about Google+, allowing a brand with a Page to take advantage of Google Search distribution, by quickly navigating from search results to a brand’s Page using the + prefix, prompting autocompletion.

Currently Direct Connect is assumed algorithmically, by picking up authenticity signals, but a brand can speed up the process by placing a Google+ badge, icon or rich snippet on the brand’s website and making sure the brand’s URL is on the Google+ Page profile.

If you’re a local business, there’s a couple of additional fields that will help your company to be found, integrating with Google Places and Google Maps.

From small and medium businesses to bands, media companies or global brands, the new Google+ service is going beyond the traditional social network, extending the Google experience, making tribute to their name Google+.

Are my customers on Google+?

With over 500 million people using Google’s services, if they’re not, they will. Despite all the naysayers that expect one more big social fail by Google, this is a platform play. Again: it’s more than a social network, it Google PLUS. The Google experience evolved. You can no longer escape from noticing the dark grey bar on all Google’s verticals, and reaching a critical mass is around around the corner (expect 100 million users before the year ends).

What you probably should be concerned is: how can my brand be meaningful in Google+? You can start by educating your newly found Google+ customers, something that the Official Google+ Page for business is doing right on their photostrip.

If you pay close attention to the area highlighted in red above, that’s a Google+ page with a designated administrator (multiple admins are coming in the near future), so you can also start thinking about who will you add as public spokesperson for the page. I for once would welcome the transparency of, unlike Facebook pages, actually knowing who is behind the brand presence.

Start experiment with Google+ features and find out what works best with your fans, something that seasoned Facebook community managers do often. The discussion generated by regular Google+ users is more insightful and rewarding for community managers than what’s to be found on Facebook, mostly due to the early adopter fan base that the service has now.

One rather interesting feature of Google+ Pages is that you can actually add people to Page Circles once people mention you Page or add it to their circles. This is a great way to target your updates, form sub-groups or even do multivariate testing. The only problem is to actually build your circles from the start, as big audiences will become a nightmare to segment and circles are limited currently to 5000 people. Take care of being to pushy, as when someone uncircles your page, they’re also removed from your Page created circles.

One last thing regarding your customers: promotions, coupons and deals are prohibited, a welcomed change from Facebook, where brands build the wrong kind of audiences using these tactics. And it’s not confirmed yet if ads will be present in the future on Google + Pages and Profiles.

Should I create a Google+ Page for my business?

You should at least secure the presence and establish a coherent branding with other channels (namely Facebook). I spoke recently about brandjacking for the BBC , as misappropriation of brand pages by cybersquatters can happen quite frequently. Reserving the presence and reassuring your fans that it is an official presence should be a preemptive measure while you figure out what to do next.

When deciding to advance to a more structured and continuous presence, you should evaluate this new channel according to your overall business strategy. Lead generation is probably the most affected metric, considering how Direct Connect and +1 buttons will influence SERPs. Make no mistake about it: if you have a substantial traffic coming from search, buckle up as the new search algorithm changes kick in. Google has always been about collective intelligence, and having vibrant communities on Google+ Pages will only do good for leading brands by attracting even more organic traffic. With Google Search Side Ads disappearing, the space is prone to be filled or influenced by +1 signals.

What about branding and creative?

Hold your horses,as Google+ Pages are quite limited, design wise. The top photostrip is currently the main spotlight for brands trying to make themselves noted, with a few ones worth checking out:

Creating the images for the scrapbook is rather easy, you just need to slice 5 consecutive images of 125×125 pizels.

The square profile picture can also be explored, considering it alternates between the two most recent profile photos. Try uploading 2 profile pictures and click on them afterwards, to see what happens. Here’s the +Page  for this blog, and me peckabooing on the backside :).

On the right sidebar you can also add recommended links, but I wouldn’t mess around too much with those, as it might confuse your users. But having a comprehensive list of your main web presences won’t hurt you.

Also of notice is the fact that Pages can share animated GIFs on their timeline (check the Burrberry scrapbook). If individuals users had their share of memes before businesses entering Google+, it’s about time the brands do their share of +culture now 🙂

Adapting some Facebook tactics such as posting images, open questions or asking people to +1 should work fine with brands also.

A few things missing

Google+ Page currently doesn’t provide pretty permalinks / vanity URLs, with Google using only canonical permalinks, with the  format https://plus.google.com/[yourpageID] – find out [yourpageID] by clicking on the Get Started button on the left menu.

Moderation features are limited, with single administrator (no roles), the ability to remove comments and no word filters.

Also, the metrics available are quite limited, with only a few analytics picked up with Webmaster Tools or integrating Social on Google Analytics. And you know it sucks changing tools instead of showing data in context (hint: Facebook per post insights). Hopefully this will change in the coming weeks, along with better API integration.

What’s next?

From sharing your new presence on Google+ Pages on your other channels, to adjusting editorial calendars (please, don’t just syndicate), it’s still early to find definitive best practices. Having a record for great social media practices will help you set apart in these first few weeks, so make the most of it while you can. As user base grows, it will become increasingly harder to get noticed.

If you want fo find out more about Google+ for businesses, there’s a webminar tomorrow or watch to AdTech’s talk by Christian Oestlien if you’re in a hurry.

If you know any more tips to add here, drop a note in the comments.

Google is on a roll this week, after finally launching Google+ Pages for brands (more on this from me this week) they’re now releasing the new resource rich Think Insights on their marketing focused platform, Think With Google.

It’s one trove of stats, case studies, featured reports, marketing insights and quick shortcuts for brands working in interactive marketing. Not less impressive, is their renewed concern on aesthetics, arranging all this information on a well designed website and attention to detail. You should know better that eye-candy still matters to marketeers, and keeping with their mission statement, information is not only universally accessible and useful, but also beautiful.

For planners out there, have a look at the Real-Time Insights Finder. The only thing to regret is that many of the studies and research are pre-2011. As much as it hurts me to say, they should step up their game regarding Facebook, that is becoming more agressive with marketing bootcamps offering up to $125 in Facebook Coupons or awarding campaigns on Facebook Studio. Let the fight for attention (and ad budgets) continue.

Rui Lopes, one of my TwineLis buddies (monthly meetup of Lisbon wine tasters) has a new blog, started with a bang with a post on the need for Portugal to change his priorities in education, with a more serious effort in science. One of the challenges is to create activities that make young people interested in science, and Google is here to help, with Google Global Science Fair.

The best young scientists from 13 to 18 years old can now enter the competition and submit their creative projects, with dozen of prizes going from a National Geographic Expedition or a $50,000 scolarship to a personalised LEGO color mosaic or a Google Chrome Notebook. Google also provides several resources and materials to help with the projects, showcasing their collaborative web services, and even get teachers involved.

We need more of this stuff from regular business.

Disclaimer: sponsored post for UnrulyMedia

Google is full of them.

106 things for the creative internet as presented by Google.

Source: Neil Perkin

This is huge for SMBs. AdWords now has the ability to target locally, just right before people leave their homes to go shopping, having searched on the web first.

location-extensions

With the new location extensions, ads can be target based on a user’s location and search terms.

Mark my words: Real-time + Personalized search + local targeting will redefine commerce.

After asking last month at Google Portugal when street view would become available, they finally unveiled the map feature for the two major cities in Portugal, Lisbon and Oporto.

gsv-lisbon

gsv-porto

Now, time to start peeking and find those awkward situations, like the one below at Parque Eduardo VII (you’ll get the joke if you’re familiar with Lisbon).

gsc-pexii

Since the iPhone was out, i secretly hoped that my mobile carrier in Portugal -TMN – would come to their senses and at least provide some decent alternative below 500€. Unexcited by the Crackberries or even the Nseries, when Google announced Android mobile OS in 2007 i thought the waiting was over. 2008 went by and no geek device worth mentioning (ok, maybe Nokia’s E71 made me think twice) and i was getting really nervous the past few months with no news regarding the “Google phone”.

tmn-android Disclaimer: This is a review for TMN’s HTC Magic, based on a device provided by the company. TMN is a Fullsix client, but that never kept me from being demanding.

A few weeks ago, after complaining on Twitter about the lack of exciting devices on TMN, out of the sudden the company announces that HTC Magic is available for pre-order. If things seemed promising, it got even better as last week a member of the board kindly allowed me to review the device. As i only had the chance to pick the package yesterday, let’s cut it short with an unboxing video and highlights first:

With less then 2 busy days getting acquainted with HTC‘s multitouch device, here’s the first impressions:

  1. It feels just about the right size. And since we’re on the ergonomics, why do multitouch devices feel so slippery and greazy? Extra points for the HTC Magic sticking to only one side button. I freaking hate those devices where you’re always pressing external buttons unintentionally.
  2. Yes, it’s true. It’s not a blazing fast OS. Kind like Firefox 3, before 3.5 was out. So, let’s hope for an updated OS soon (altough i’ve read somewhere you can use the Hero‘s ROM on Magic already)
  3. Loving the Augmented Reality apps. SkyMap and Wikitude are a sign of things to come.
  4. The integration with Google services is, in my opinion, the best feature. From complete mobile sync with your address book, to smooth experience on Google maps, it’s where Android shows its best. And it can only get more efficient, if Sergei and Larry wish so.
  5. Pay close attention to extra apps (notifications, GPS monitoring) as it can drain your battery and data plan. Which takes me to one question for TMN: can we have some decent mobile data plans, please? And while you’re at it, a support page for the device would be nice also.
  6. It’s not an iPhone. Can we please stop with all the comparisons? And yet, i feel there’s more future on the Android platform, as nowadays the iPhone ecosystem is starting to feel a bit like MySpace. Somehow i feel the developers are slowly shifting to more open platforms, and it’s always useful to pay attention to the Alpha-geeks

Overall it’s a solid device and one of the best choices for those who can’t live by without Google services (yes, i’m already thinking about Wave). I still don’t dream of electric sheep, so if there’s anyone interested on providing an iPhone 3GS for review you could still change my mind 🙂 Any questions, feel free to drop it in the comments.