Google Social Network Opens Doors to Businesses

Google Inc's new social networking service has opened its doors to businesses to create special web pages, a move that could entice visitors to spend more time on the website and help Google match the offerings of rival Facebook.

The so-called Google+ Pages allow corporate brands and businesses to set up a special page within Google's social networking service.

Google said that 20 businesses, including Toyota, Pepsi and retailer Macy's, have set up special pages on the Google+ social network, and that any organization will soon be able to join as well.

Until now, only individual users have been able to sign up for Google+. Businesses are increasingly using online social services, such as Facebook, to reach new customers and to cement relationships with loyal customers through special offers and promotions.

Google, the world's No. 1 search engine, has signed up more than 40 million users on Google+ since it introduced the service in late June. But Facebook dominates the social networking market with more than 750 million users.

The new Google+ business pages will be accessible from Google's Web search engine, as well as from within the Google+ social networking service. Google said on Monday that users who type the plus symbol in front of a business' name, such as "+Pepsi," when conducting a search on its search engine, will be directly connected to the business' special Google+ page.

Google said this so-called "direct connect" feature is currently available for a limited number of pages, but that "many more are coming."