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Google+ introduces social networking tools for business users

Google on Wednesday got dressed up in its best suit and tie and grabbed its briefcase to head to work, rolling out new Google+ tools and features tailored for businesses that will be free through the end of 2013.

Google is no stranger to business-ready applications, having built up an impressive enterprise portfolio in recent years with its Gmail and Google Apps offerings.

"Every day, more companies are going Google. We're excited to help them take advantage of modern, Web-based tools and give their employees new ways to connect and collaborate," Google Apps product management director Clay Bavor said in a blog post.

All Google Apps users can get a sneak peek at the new features in full preview mode, a step up from Google's beta testing format. Pilot customers, including Kaplan and Banshee Wines, have been testing the new site by engaging and connecting employees, according to Google. Early feedback is crucial for Google to tailor its new features to organisations, the company said.

Google+ for businesses is defined by three features that differentiate it from the consumer platform - private sharing, video integration, and administrative controls.

Google Apps users get more control over the content they post to Google+. There's a new option to mark posts as restricted, which keeps them private within an organisation and bars other users from re-sharing them with outsiders. Businesses can also choose to share a message only with specific partners or colleagues outside of the organisation as well.

Since July, Hangouts have been accessible through Gmail and via Google Drive documents, but now, users can also add a hangout to a Calendar event, turning it into a one-stop-shop for attendees to check the time and location of the meeting, just before joining.

Administrators can also restrict Hangouts for private meetings.

"These latest business features for Google+ ... are just a start," Bavor said.

A mobile version of the new business tool suite, plus more administrative controls are on their way, according to the company.

The search giant also announced another Google+ update on Wednesday – birthday reminders that will show up on the upper right-hand side of the main Google search page when one of your contacts celebrates their big day.

Last week, Google updated its social network with more user control over what you read and share on Google+, making it possible to mute all notifications from certain users, get an alert when friends post, and notify people via email when you have something important to share.