Relatively new to the social media scene, Google+ has always had a lot of buzz surrounding it. I mean, it is a Google entity, so that’s not a surprise. But despite the initial hype and droves of people who signed up and created profiles, Google+ has left a lot of people and businesses confused. It has similarities to Facebook, but it doesn’t “feel” the same to users. What is it’s purpose? Why should I care who is in my “circles”? How can Google+ help my business? Before we tackle some of these issues, let’s start from the beginning, which for Google+ was in 2011.
Google+, owned and operated by Google, launched in June 2011 with integrations across a number of Google products. It was initially launched as an invite-only social network, but quickly suspended that requirement because of high demand. With many of the same features as Facebook, Google+ allows users to create personalized profiles and personal connections. Businesses pages have also become available. In January 2013, Google+ surpassed Twitter as the second largest social networking site in the world. With approximately 500 million registered users and around 320 active users, Google+ shouldn’t and can’t be ignored by businesses.
As I mentioned, there are some similarities to Facebook, but Google+ has several unique features, as well.
- Allows for targeted sharing within subsets of a user’s social groups. Put simply: Circles are small groups of people that users can share specific information. Each has a name, such as family, friends, co-workers, and classmates. It’s an interesting way to separate your social groups in real life and share specific information with specific people. Again, it helps with personal versus professional relationships.
- Similar to the “like” button on Facebook, the +1 button let’s you show users what content grabbed your attention and you wanted to endorse. When a user hits the +1 button on your content you’ll be notified, and anyone in their circles will be able to see what content they’ve clicked +1 on. This feature also adds weight to search engine results. So, the more +1s your posts have the higher Google will rank the post in search results.
- Provides three columns of updates from users’ circles. The stream can be filtered to only show certain circles at any given time. Users can think of this as similar to Facebook’s wall.
- Places used to facilitate group video chat. A maximum of 10 participants can interact in a single Hangout at the same time. Hangouts can be shared to YouTube (also a Google entity) to be watched multiple times. Even President Obama has taken part in a Google+ Hangout. That’s pretty cool!
- Allow users to create ongoing conversations about specific topics, helpful for professionals in specific industries or individuals interested in certain hobbies.
- As with Twitter, hashtags (#) can group content of a certain topic together and display the highest ranking or most popular topics in search results. Hashtags can help get your content be easier to find and be noticed by more than those users who are already in your circles. From a business standpoint, hashtags are key to reaching a broader audience.
- Allows users to see reviews of local businesses from people in their circles, as well as see pictures and read about experiences from public users. Businesses should monitor Local to see what people are saying about them. It would also be beneficial to have your loyal consumers post about you or their experiences with the business, again, this would help attract new potentional customers.
- Launched in September 2011, Google+ mobile includes most of the features of the social network, including easy photo uploading, easy mentioning, and notifications.
Early adopters were generally male, ages 25-34. Google+ originally had an age requirement of 18, but in June 2012 opened the network up to users as young as 13. Still, today, the average user tends to be male (63%), around 28-years-old, and who is technically savvy.
Every month, nearly 320 million people worldwide use Google+ to post messages, make video calls, and endorse search results by clicking the so-call +1 button. In fact, in 2013 alone, 100 million new users joined Google+. The social network still struggles with the amount of time users spend on it. On average, active users spend on 12 minutes per day on Google+. That compares to the average Facebook user spending at least 20 minutes, per visit each day.
Here’s 11 surprising facts about Google+ you may not know.
So, Why is Google+ Important to Your Business?
This seems to be the main question most businesses debate. Why should resources be put into a social network that lacks engaged and active users. Well, the simple answer is: Google. The benefits to your businesses being on Google+ are numerous, but the most important one is search engine optimization (SEO).
Google+ posts get indexed almost immediately by Google. This means your posts count toward your overall SEO ranking. Content from posts has the same value as content on web pages. This is huge! It doesn’t take much to craft a successful post on Google+ and link it back to your business’ website. By doing this consistently, you’ll help your business rank higher in search results, and in turn, become more visible to potential consumers.
Also, because Google+ is owned by Google, those posts tend to rank higher in search results, another bonus for businesses. Unlike most other social networks, Google+ passes link authority. So, when you share a link to a page, that link is free of a “no follow” element that would strip away its link authority. Learn more about link authority here and other reasons you shouldn’t ignore Google+.
The larger your business’ Google+ network is, the more directly or indirectly you’ll influence search results of people who have you in their circles. Remember, just like with “regular” SEO on a website, keywords are key in Google+ posts and will help good content become more visible (and don’t forget those relevant hashtags either!).
Social networking gives Google more details about its users, like where they live and what their interests are, so that information provided in search results can be personalized. Messages, photos, or videos tend to appear in search results from users’s personal connections, making those results seem more personalized.
Recently, Google also announced that comments from Google+ users circles would rank higher on YouTube videos than even the video’s creator or celebrities. The company says it recognizes that people care more about comments from people they know than complete strangers. If your business is on YouTube, it’s inevitable that you’ll almost be forced to join the Google+ platform because of this integration.
What Should Your Strategy Be?
Would I recommend putting a ton of resources into producing content specifically for Google+? No. But should it be an important part of a integrated marketing communications plan? Yes. All businesses should be on Google+ for at least the SEO exposure alone. But don’t make it harder on yourself or your staff, take content already being produced for other social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, and re-tool it. Remember, be aware of trending hashtags (I can’t say this enough, right?), be specific and strategic with keywords, and know who is your circles and provide content to those users that they will find valuable. Also, make sure your profile is complete and optimized, so users can easily find your business page. This includes a complete introduction, tagline, contact information, and photo.
Another benefit of Google+ is your content extends beyond the social network. It follows users across all of Google’s products: Reviews, Maps, Chrome, Ads, Hangouts, YouTube, Calendar, and more.
See how businesses around the world are using Google+ to get noticed and connect with their audience.
Google+ may still be a mystery to some, but be proactive and take advantage of the benefits that come along with. Let’s be honest, Google isn’t going anywhere, so you should think of Google+ in the same light. As Google+ develops and reinvents itself in the years to come, the fact that Google owns so many platforms will only grow. This cross exposure on other platforms is another way you can market your businesses to the masses.
Farnworth, D. (2013, March). Why Google+ is the best social platform for content marketers [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.copyblogger.com/google-plus-content-advantage/
Frasco, S. (2013, April 2). A Google+ overview: breaking through misconceptions [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com/stephaniefrasco/1332761/google-plus-overview
Hof, R. (2013, May 16). Google still struggles to explain why normal people should care about Google+. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthof/2013/05/16/google-still-struggles-to-explain-why-real-people-should-care-about-google/
Honeysett, A. (2013, October 9). Should your company be on Google+? [Blog post] Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2013/10/09/your-company-on-google-plus/
Kocher, J. (2013, August 30). SEO: 5 reasons not to ignore Google+ [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/57948-SEO-5-Reasons-Not-to-Ignore-Google
Kopytoff, V. (2013, October 3). Google is far from losing the war over social. Time Business & Money. http://business.time.com/2013/10/03/google-is-far-from-losing-the-war-over-social
Shepard, C. (2013, April 20). Amazing correlation betwee Google +1s and higher search rankings [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://moz.com/blog/google-plus-correlations