Google+ officially launched in September 2011. Today there are over 1bn Google+ enabled accounts and 360m active users; it is growing at 33% per annum and is now the second largest social network after Facebook.
Research by SEO firm Searchmetrics has predicted, on current growth figures, Google+ will overtake Facebook in number of shares by May 2016.
What is Google+?
Google+ is both a social network in its own right and a social layer that runs across all of Google’s products. A new user is immediately struck by the different look and feel of the platform. Contacts, information and interactions are managed through a system of circles.
Google+ circle management – a different look and feel
Contacts or “people” can be added to one or more circles e.g. a circle for family members, a circle for friends, a circle for customers. As a business you might set up circles that mirror a sales funnel and move people between circles as they progress through the sales cycle.
Like Twitter you can follow anyone (add them to a circle) and see their public posts but only when they add you back can you message them directly.
Posts can be shared publically or with specific individuals, circles or communities. A sophisticated settings menu allows users to fine tune which the posts they see and who can see their posts.
Personal, Business and Brand pages
Google gives businesses the option of setting up local, company or brand pages. As you might expect the big brands are already well established. One of the interesting things about Google+ is there is much more of a blurring between business and personal, which creates a more open and informal atmosphere.
“Personal brands are powerful. People trust and listen to a person before they trust and listen to a logo”.
Mark Traphagen SEO and Reputation Expert
As a result many small and medium sized businesses focus on building personal followings first before gradually encouraging those who are interested to follow their business page.
Growth can be meteoric. For example one US marketer I know grew her followers from 77 to 50,000 in just 9 months (see chart). In a recent interview ex Bristol, and now California based, marketing expert Martin Shervington shared that of the 37,000 hits per month on his website 29,000 are coming from Google+.
Analytics report showing explosive growth of followers in just 7 1/2 months for a US Google+ member (reporting tool is Circlecount).
Circle management is a genius piece of design that enables a very open, flexible and controllable way of interacting with other people. Google+ has several other features that in combination set it apart from other social networks.
- Communities. Introduced in 2012 Communities are similar to LinkedIn groups but typically benefit from much higher engagement and no ads. Communities can be set up by individuals, businesses, organisations or brands.
- Hangouts are a free online video conference facility for up to 10 people. Google provides a number of tools which make this business friendly and an ideal platform for customer and sales meeting, product launches, training, presentations etc.
- Hangouts On Air (HOA) are video calls which can be broadcast publically and automatically recorded to your YouTube channel. Like Hangouts there is a limit of 10 participants on the call itself but an unlimited numbers can watch and comment live, or view the recording later. Check out this Cadbury HOA which featured Olympian Rebecca Adlington.
- Free broadcast TV channel. An increasingly popular application of the Hang Out On Air is to broadcast a regular “show”. We all love TV and this is an incredibly powerful way to engage with your target audience and for them to interact with you directly.
- Ripples is a powerful visualisation tool which enables you to see who is sharing your and other people’s public posts, identify which people are your biggest “fans” and who have the biggest influence. Armed with this information you can focus your attention on the people who will reward your efforts the most.
Why you can’t afford to ignore Google+
Leaving aside the many great features of the product there are compelling reasons why your business should become active on Google+:
- Google+ is Google and Google owns search. All of Google+ public content is instantly indexed for Google search.
- Google+ is at the core of Google’s long term strategy running across all of Google’s products from YouTube to Android to AdWords.
- Google is investing heavily in making search results more personalised and authoritative. Having a presence on Google+ is essential to take advantage of this.
- It’s possible to identify, segment and engage with your target audiences quickly and easily without as much as an email passing your finger tips.
- It’s faster and easier to grow a large following on Google+ than other platforms
- Google+ has a more open, positive, and helpful culture. This openness makes it easier to make connections and to pitch ideas.
- The Google marketing juggernaut is encouraging uptake at every opportunity. For example every new Android phone comes with Google+.
- There is probably still time to benefit from first mover advantage in your market
Evolution of Google+
As with other social platforms Google+ is a work in progress. Google’s approach is to give you great tools then let you work out how you want to use them, as a result there is a steeper learning curve for the Google+ which has been a barrier for some people in the past.
Some parts of the platform are definitely not yet fully developed. For example analytics and reporting tools are pretty but basic. Hangouts and particularly the Hang Out on Air are outstanding tools for creating engagement with an audience but people without a Google+ account can only interact with the live HOA broadcasts through third party tools.
I don’t know many businesses on Google+
It’s true that Google+ adoption amongst UK SMEs is lagging behind the US. However I predict you will see an explosion of interest in Google+ in the next few months. As a forward thinking business you should be building and developing your Google+ profile now.
To reinforce the point here are 12 businesses who are already demonstrating great returns from Google+.
- +Topshop - goo.gl/aEgSn6
- +Cadbury UK - goo.gl/rFUZMp
- +Travel Republic - goo.gl/PkLhMG
- +Clinique UK - goo.gl/BR1YgJ
- +The Guardian - goo.gl/2X49pA
- +Cars.com - goo.gl/Qys9mH
- +Financial Times - goo.gl/o9TgdM
- +Scoot & Doodle - goo.gl/bQqR56
- +Ocado - goo.gl/h4kqAm
- +Cadbury UK - goo.gl/zNVPFX
- +LateRooms UK - goo.gl/GorMhI
- +H&M - goo.gl/t02vqf
About the author
Greg Cooper is a marketing coach and a social media trainer specialising in LinkedIn and Google+.