On Nov. 7th, Google announced that they opened up their social network, Google+, to businesses, brands and organizations. Prior to this date, Google+ didn’t want businesses creating a profile or page on their new social network. Those companies who tried to game the system later found Google+ taking their pages down.
While Google+ may seem similar to other large social networks at first glance, there are a few unique opportunities that should be of particular interest to marketers. A few are mentioned below.
First, Google+ makes it very easy to create what are known as circles. Circles, available to individuals and businesses, enable groupings of friends or connections. This becomes especially valuable for marketers. You may have customers worldwide and certain pieces of content you post socially may only be relevant to those in the U.S, for instance. In this case, it would make sense to only send U.S. related posts to those customers in the U.S. and not to those internationally. Circles allow you to do just that. Your circles can be organized in any meaningful way, such as by location, by customer type, by product or service, etc. There is one very important caveat to be aware of for businesses… and that is pages can only add followers of the page to its circles. Individuals have to first add the page to their circles. This means that users have to initiate a connection with your business before you can start to communicate with them regularly on Google+.
Hangouts are also unique to Google+. Hangouts let you have video chats with customers, friends, colleagues, partners, etc. What better way to hold a focus group, get feedback on a product, or chat about an upcoming offering, than through a video chat? Hangouts allow businesses to really get to know their customers or fans, and get important feedback that may help them improve their products or services. At this time, there can be a maximum of 10 people in a video chat.
Marketers always want to know what happens to content they publish online, whether it is a blog post or a post within a social network. With a feature called ripples, Google+ has made it possible to see how posts are shared throughout the Google+ network. Ripples will be shown within the drop down to the right of any public post (if a post is shared with only a certain circle, ripples will not be available). On the topic of measuring post activity, Google+ stated that they will be launching new tools to give business owners access to more data about their Google+ page, including interactions with the page, demographics, shares, comments, etc.
Google of course wouldn’t go without incorporating its social network into its search engine. You’re probably familiar with the +1 buttons that appear alongside paid and organic search listings. When listings in the search results are +1’d, they can be shared with those on Google+. Google+ profile images also rank in organic search when a piece of content is written by someone on Google+. For example, a search for canonical link element in Google will show Matt Cutt’s blog post on this topic, and his Google+ profile image right next to it. If you are connected with that person on Google+, there will also be a button showing the circle you have placed that person in (if you are logged into your Google account).
One of the most recent changes related to Google+ and search is Direct Connect. With Direct Connect you can add a plus symbol right before a company’s name when searching on Google and you will be taken directly to that company’s Google+ page. Conduct a search for +Pepsi in Google and you’ll see how this works. It’s important to note that this is not available for all companies at this time. Search Engine Land put together The Alphabet of Google+ Direct Connect containing many companies that this works for at the moment.
With all of these great features available in Google+, there are still a few obstacles marketers must be aware of. Probably the most cumbersome aspect is that the person who creates the Google+ page will “own” the page; they will be the only administrator. As you can imagine, this could be difficult for companies where multiple teams collaborate on the social media marketing efforts (Marketing, Customer Services, Sales, etc). There also isn’t a way to re-assign administrative rights at this time. Google has stated that they are aware of these issues and fixing them is a priority. We hope to see these concerns resolved shortly.
If you are interested in creating a Google+ page for your business, you can quickly and easily create one, but you will need a Google profile in order to do so. We expect many changes to take place over the coming months as more businesses join Google+ and as more people continue to voice their opinions and feedback about Google’s new social network. We will do our best to help marketers stay informed of new and upcoming changes as they occur.