These kind of requests pop up throughout our days on a regular basis. And they are good questions to ask. It shows thinking about new channels and an understanding that jumping in without planning is not usually the best approach. This particular question came up yesterday, so it seems timely to share some considerations towards a decision to include Google+ in communications plans.
Google+ is a social media channel. Before deciding on a channel for communication and engagement, we must first have an understanding of what we are trying to achieve. This is a too common mistake when it comes to social media: brands want to be on a channel and don’t think through whether it is right for them. And we shouldn’t let a channel drive our strategy. We want to think first and foremost about (1) who the target audience is and (2) what we want to achieve and (3) then figure out if a channel, Google+, is a channel that will help meet those objectives.
Who is on Google+?
A full two-thirds of Google+’s users are men. A sizable number of Google+ users (42%) are single, and the most popular occupation listed is “student.” While it has a long way to go before it catches up to Facebook in popularity and adoption, with over 100 million users, it would appear that Google is off to a decent start. However, everyone who has a gmail account is automatically signed up for Google+, whether they actually use the service or not. This inflates the number of users making the service seem more popular than it is so far.
Why should a brand consider a presence on Google+?
Google+ is influencing the integration of search and social. Searches for brands on Google are showing Google+ pages near the top. And content and pages that have received +1s also show near the top of Google search results. For SEO purposes alone, Google+ is worth the investment in time and effort. For example, someone who is logged into Google (any Google account is a Google+ member, remember), and may have played around with Google+ by adding a few people to circles or uploading some images to Picasa, but is not really active on the network, will still see their connections +1s in their search results, giving those results a great weight in importance. There is definite value in the tie to search results as Google turns on its social search function. This means that a brand’s content that fans share will be more widely seen by their peers in relevant search results.
It is not a bad idea to claim your space before someone else does. Even if you are not sure how you will use it, or if you will, claiming the brand name while you decide will save you trouble later.
Google Hangouts. Hangouts is a feature unique to Google+ that makes it worth using if video conversations would be relevant and effective for the brand.
Engagement with content will mostly be driven by photos and videos. If the brand has highly visual content or can come up with a way to share highly visual content, Google+ may be a viable outlet for sharing and engaging. Take care, however, not to post the same information on Facebook; give fans more than that. Consider posting original content, like archival photos or live video chats with team members. Ask fans what kind of content they want and figure out a way to deliver that.
What should a brand expect from a presence on Google+?
Keep in mind that Google+ doesn’t have the user base yet that Facebook has and the user base they do have is quite different. So, don’t use Facebook as a gage for expectations on Google+ engagement. And as with any other social network, a brand is only going to get results out of Google+ if they put effort into developing and maintaining good content.
As a benchmark, consider Ferarri. On Google+, Ferarri has a 1.2 million circle count, but has more than 8.8 million likes on Facebook. Or consider Adidas, which has a 3,000 circle count, has an equally impressive 8.5 million likes on Facebook.