For many, the term Google+ is relatively new. Unless you’re not actively participating, it is easy to shy away from updates and news surrounding yet further developments in the social media sphere.
Google has produced a number of social networking sites over the years, Orkut, Buzz and Wave spring to mind. However, none of them made Google a serious competitor in the social networking market….until now. Last June, Google released its latest social networking tool. When Google+ first launched, millions of users flocked to the new service, ten million in 16 days to be exact. However, only recently has Google+ allowed brands to showcase their services. So where does Google+ fit in your marketing plan for 2012?
Back to basics, so what is Google+ exactly?
Let’s start at the beginning; Google+ is Google’s latest attempt to enter the “social” world, currently dominated by Facebook and Twitter. Google+ is an amalgamation of several services we already use, the idea, according to Google, is to do them better. The easiest way to think of Google+ is not as a place like Facebook but as a layer on top of all the Google services we already use daily. Google has a lot of services that are at the centre of people’s online lives: their search engine, Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail and so on. Google wants to create a central hub, where all their services can come together.
Think of a Google+ business page as a mini website for your business, with social networking features built in, and hosted by Google. Google+ allows brands to build relationships between businesses and consumers. Like Facebook, you are given the ability to share, promote, and measure your fan engagement. Statistics show that in January 2012 there were over 90 million Google+ users, significant growth and the catalyst for businesses to start integrating Google + into their social media mix. Both Google+ profiles and business pages provide robust platforms for companies that want to grow their web presence and create real conversations with prospects and customers. There is also another benefit. Having an active Google+ presence for your business, brand or name has powerful implications for search engine optimisation….of course. Google is still the largest search engine in the world, not to mention the owner of YouTube and now the +1 button appears in search results.
What key features can you expect from Google+?
Circles, you can organise all your contacts into circles. You have the ability to target different segments of your audience through the Circles, enabling you to group prospective customers; people aged 18-35, Men 60+, or even employees into different circles. This means you will be able to control and target different messages to different circles. You can also see what conversations are going on in each of the circles.
Hangouts is another feature of Google+, which allows group video conversations to take place. Google+ gives you a “start a hangout” button, which will publish an update to your profile saying, “TLC is hanging out”. Up to 10 people can be in a hangout at any time, they’re free and they can be private or public. Users can also watch YouTube videos in sync with the other people in the hangout, a useful tool for virtual meetings etc.
What your business can do with a Google+ business page:
Conduct video conversations with employees
Live Q&A sessions
Customer service “office hours”
Take a look at how Virgin have used Google+
Virgin has been busy using its Google+ page to help recruit 500 new crew members and offering followers a chance to meet CEO Richard Branson face-to-face. As well as Virgin, many other of the group companies are present on Google+, from the airlines Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic providing travel updates, to Virgin Money, sharing all the latest details of their mission to rejuvenate the banking system.
You may think. ‘Well my business isn’t exactly a big consumer brand like Virgin, Toyota or Pepsi’; however, Google+ business pages offer exciting opportunities for even the smaller brands, allowing great potential to target key Circles with specific messages and derive SEO benefits for your website.
Google+ is still at the start of its long journey to social media domination; however, starting to think about building your business page, the interesting content you can display and the ways you can further engage with other businesses and prospects effectively online, can only be an added bonus to your marketing plan in 2012.