Google+ social network lets firms have their own pages

Save the Children's Google+ page
Image caption Save the Children charity is one of the first organisations to sign up to the service

Google has started allowing businesses and brands to set up their own pages on its new social network.

The US firm says the Google+ Pages facility will help companies and campaigns engage with their audience.

Organisations will not be charged to use the scheme and Google says it will not put adverts on their pages.

It is a further challenge to rival network Facebook, which offers its own Pages service allowing businesses to promote themselves.

Burberry, Barcelona football club and the Muppets are some of the organisations taking part in the launch.

Google says the service offers more than a shop window.

It says organisations can benefit from adding a "+" link to one of the adverts listed on the firm's results or to another marketing campaign. The page owners can then monitor how many people are clicking through to their Google+ page and where they clicked from.

However, Google says it will not pass on individual IP addresses or any other personal data.

Organisations will be able to use the site's Circles facility to match different information to different groups. They can also set up video chats with up to nine other users using the network's Hangouts service.

"Companies like being on social networks, it allows them to have a two-way conversation with their customers and get to know more about who they are," said Professor Jeremy Baker from the ESCP Europe Business School.

"It's a very persuasive and intimate atmosphere as the sites are seen as trusted places to be."

Google says more than 40 million people have already opened an account with its network

"Facebook still has more than 10 times the number of users," said Ian Maude, head of internet at Enders Analysis.

"Google+ is growing very quickly. However, there is an awful long way for it to go before it becomes a major threat to Mark Zuckerberg's business."

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