We’ve now lived with Google Plus for a little more than a year and I want to ask an important question: can we hit a big “reset” button on Google Plus? I don’t mean on the social network itself, but rather the way we, as marketers, think about and approach the platform.
There is not a day that goes by where we don’t hear some kind of griping and complaining about the social network (I know, I know, Google says it isn’t a “social network.” Point taken. But it is in the social space and it is a network, so work with me here.). To be fair, Google Plus has its fair share of challenges, but I believe that we’ve missed the point of how to use the network. It isn’t Facebook. This isn’t the place where you go to hang out with your long-lost best friend from 8th grade. This isn’t the place to build the unofficial timeline of your life and put it on display for the world (at least, not yet). No, I believe Google Plus is something completely different all together.
A Quick History of Google Plus
Google Plus was launched in June, 2011 and was immediately proclaimed to be the “fastest growing social network in history” when it hit more than 25 million accounts in about six weeks. It included fancy new terms like “circles,” “hangouts” and “sparks.” And while there was a lot of drooling over what Google Plus could be, it wasn’t very clear what we were supposed to do on G+ when we logged in. As a result, it sat there unused, proclaimed as a ghost town and left for dead. Or was it? Google continued to make further changes to the network by launching “pages” for brands, integrating status updates and pages into search results and heavily promoting the hangout feature with the likes of the Muppets and the White House. The platform gained a little momentum and was once again being talked about for consideration among the big social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But a specific question still remains.
Google Plus: What’s It Good For?
I believe this is a fair question and it is one I get a lot when I meet with clients and prospective clients. If Google Plus isn’t a fancy, full-on competitor to Facebook, why in the world should you invest any time in it? Here are three points to consider about Google Plus and how you can (and should) use it.
1. Impact on Search
Google has always been a search-based company. When it was launched, Google was the proverbial “better mousetrap.” The idea of using backlinks to establish relevance and popularity for search engine results rankings was nothing short of revolutionary. And Google pretty much crushed its competition. As Google has grown as a company, they have expanded into new areas. Some worked out well (i.e. Gmail, Google Maps) while others were miserable failures (i.e. Wave, Buzz). But everything Google does pretty much ties back to supporting search in some way. Google Plus is no different. Take “search plus your world.” This new way of presenting search results relies a good bit on Google Plus. It presents results for your search query based on other “plus one” votes from those within your social circles. And where is that controlled? You guessed it: right inside Google Plus. In ultra competitive SEO environments, it can be difficult to rise to the top of the rankings. However, through the powerful combination of getting as many people as possible to add your company Google Plus page to their circles and then sharing generous amounts of content (photos, blog posts, etc.) via your page, your business can quickly claim a top position in SPYW and get more organic traffic.
2. Network Development
As noted above, Google Plus is not Facebook. You won’t find any high school reunions over here. But what you will find are a lot of interesting people sharing a lot of interesting content. And somewhere in that mix may be the people you need to connect with. The people that may share your content (or company/brand name) with their circles and open up an entirely new set of contacts for you. And that is great for growing your network. That beats an online high school reunion any day, right?
3. Content Sharing
Google Plus was built for sharing. Photos, videos, news stories, blog posts. You name it, you can share it on Google Plus. And with Circles, you can choose who to share that content with. Only want clients to see a note about a hangout? You can do that. Want to announce something to the entire Google Plus universe? Be sure to select the “public” circle and add the appropriate hashtags to increase the likelihood that your post is found. Got some great photos from a client project or event? Create an album (or better yet, create an event) and share it with those you’d like to see it. The process couldn’t be any easier and once that content is shared, it can circulate in the search engine and be included in SERPs.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I’m bashing Facebook. I’m on that network (among many others) as well and I approach it in a completely different manner. But I believe Google Plus is a very useful network that, unfortunately, has suffered from a bad reputation during its first year. So, what do you say? Can we give Google Plus another chance?
About the Author
Jon Parks is a digital marketing strategist and owner of Dijital Farm, a digital marketing consulting agency based in Raleigh, N.C. As a consultant, speaker and instructor, Jon helps businesses make sense of social media, the basics of Google, e-mail marketing and more. You can follow Jon on Twitter, add him to your circles on Google Plus and connect with him on LinkedIn.