Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have stood out as social media juggernauts for quite some time now. With two distinctly different products it's hard to say whether they were truly competing. Over the past several months however the battle for social media supremacy has exploded with the addition of a brand new high-profile player: Google+.
As marketing practitioners, we felt the need to learn as much as possible about this new product to help you determine whether Google+ should become a part of your marketing plan. Here is our report:
Google+ (pronounced Google plus) launched in beta on June 28, 2011, on an invitation-only basis and already has more than 40 million users. Google+ is a social networking project that seeks to replicate the way people interact offline more closely than is the case in other social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter. The project’s slogan is “Real-life sharing rethought for the web.” Recently Google+ announced that businesses can now create pages and build relationships with prospects and customers on different levels.
Circles are like categories for your connections; you can share updates selectively with different groups. Examples of such groups might include family, friends, office colleagues and people that you share a particular interest with. Circles may be discrete or have overlap, so someone you work with who’s also in your book club will get updates for both groups. Users outside a circle can see a list of member names but not the name of the circle.
Hangouts are an option for video chat for up to 10 people at any given time. Google’s emphasis is on creating the kind of space that replicates casual ad-hoc gatherings in the real world.
Huddle is an option for text message group chats for Android, iPhone and SMS devices.
Instant upload is an option to automatically send pictures and videos taken with a cell phone to a private photo album. Users can then decide whether to share them and, if so, with whom.
Streams are similar to Facebook news updates but you can see updates for particular circles rather than updates for everyone at once.
Sparks are topics that you want to discuss with others.
Games are free. 26 are available right now and surely more will come.
Google+ is integrated with Gmail, Google Maps and Google Calendar.
Google+ is incredibly easy to use.
Google+ competes with established social applications like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, FourSquare and YouTube. I had to laugh when I read another writer’s review of Google+:
“The social media space keeps getting more and more crowded. Some people feel Google’s latest entry into the market is too late. Others, however, see the search engine giant as a real threat to Facebook’s market share.”
I’ve been in advertising for about 35 years now. And for the last 34-½ years I’ve seen at least one new medium per year pronounce itself the definitive medium: the one medium a brand just can’t live without. The medium takes centre stage for a while – and then joins the other media that used to be in the spotlight including: Campus, Community, Daily, Ethnic and Shopper Newspapers, Farm, Ethnic, Consumer and Business Magazines, National, Regional and Local TV Stations, Specialty Cable Stations, Cable Access, Local and Network Radio, Direct Mail, Outbound Telemarketing, Consumer and Business Websites, Out-of-Home, ‘Alternative Media’, Promotions, Public Relations, etc., etc., etc.
To me the bigger issue is this: this is one of many options you should explore because exploring your media options or ‘sales channels’ is just good business. You need to know what you don’t know. What you have to keep in mind is how much time and effort you're prepared to devote to this medium on a consistent basis.
Allow me to illustrate my point:
• Setup of your Google+ account is fast and easy. Drawing on content from my LinkedIn profile and computer / iphone photos, I was able to set up a profile, edit and add a bunch of pictures, set up some recommended links and invite 45 contacts to join me in less than two hours.
• Maintaining your Google+ account will take more time. Expect to spend about an hour a week to start: you’ll spend more time in the beginning (learning curve), less if no one is interested in your musings, and more if they are. Remember: your social value is related not to what you say, but how many people are interested in what you say.
Google+ could have a huge impact on Google search results.
Pages have a +1 button which allow visitors to endorse your content like this:
This is not only important in social media, it’s extremely important in search results because Google’s goal is to provide the most relevant search results possible. As more people endorse content through the +1 button, the content is calculated to be of greater value by Google’s algorithms. So the more relevant and popular your content is, the better your content will rank. While Google takes you/your organization’s online status (web, social links, etc.) into account obliquely in its algorithms, when you’re using and linking to their applications Google can make more accurate calculations: “membership has its privileges”.
Setting up a Google+ Business account is as easy as setting up a personal profile.
Create an email address for your organization
Use an an address like firstname.lastname@example.org when setting up your Google+ account. Currently Google+ doesn’t have the ability to change this email address or assign multiple administrators. So set up a generic address that others can sign into to make profile or social activity updates.
Squat... claim and customize your business page
If you do nothing else - claim your company name and establish a Google+ page now and squat before someone else does. Over time you can add your logo, photos, profiles, updates, etc. Use the Recommended Links area of your profile to link to your website, blog, other social media as well as companies or organizations you want to endorse by linking to them.
Share great content
Think about the content you share on Facebook, YouTube, Linked in and your blogs.
Depending on how you set up your groups you can share similar content on Google+. Remember: this is a new medium. Time will tell what it becomes: social like Facebook, professional like Linked in - or both. Don't just copy and paste the same content from one social medium to another - otherwise many of your followers will see the same content over and over again.
Incorporate the +1 button on your website
Give visitors to your site the ability to easily +1 your content. Place this icon at the bottom of web pages and add this to your blog (and if you don’t have a blog, get one!). Share great content on your site and encourage people to +1 (or endorse) your content. You’ll begin to see these +1′s in search results—giving your website more social and search relevancy.
For more information
If you have additional questions about Google+ give us a call at 1-204-474-1654.
For more help
6P Marketing can set up and complete a Google+ profile for you, and if you wish, keep it updated for you. Both services are provided and billed on an hourly basis.