By Lisa Chatroop, Social Media Assassin
Google+ debuted with much fanfare on June 28th and skyrocketed to 20 million users within its first three weeks, making it the fastest-growing social network of all time. This past month, Google finally rolled out Google+ for businesses. Although it may seem like just another social networking site (many liken it to a hybrid of Facebook and Twitter), there are several unique features Google+ has that allow brands to reach out to their customers in new and unique ways.
Content is Key – and Searchable!
Unlike Twitter, Google+ has a high tolerance for longer original content – meaning that you aren’t just limited to 140 characters. Additionally, unlike Facebook, the ability to use hashtags on Google+ allows brands to create keyword-rich content that is searchable within the site.
Google+ also has a unique feature called Sparks, which is a bit of a hybrid of Google Reader and Google Alerts - in other words, it’s a way for you to read the latest news (like Reader), but it filters the results in the manner of Alerts. Additionally, the search function on Google+ not only allows businesses to track what is being said about their brand, but also allows users (read: potential customers) to find content that appeals to them. In other words, These features make it easier for brands and potential customers to find each other via search terms.
Those that are looking to post a lot of original written content on Google+ (authors, media outlets, and the like) will appreciate the Author Tags feature. This allows content to be permanently tagged with the source data, meaning that even if the material gets picked up by news aggregators, authors can rest assured that the content will still be properly attributed.
Get into the Niche
One unique feature of Google+ is the ability to segment your audience into various groups via Circles. This feature allows brands to send messages that are relevant to each specific Circle they’ve created, thereby allowing them to focus their promotional efforts to a very specific niche. For example, a store with a wide variety of offerings like Wal-Mart might want to promote a sale on Revlon lipstick. Circles would allow them to target that message to women within a certain demographic while avoiding broadcasting the message to disinterested parties, (i.e. men that are only interested in Wal-Mart’s selection of hunting gear). These targeted interest groups cut down on promotional clutter, and we envision this feature resulting in less “unlikes” due to irrelevant postings.
Hangouts: A New Way to Interact with Your Audience
Although it may seem like just another way for friends and family to stay in touch, many brands are already doing some creative things with the Hangouts feature on Google+. For example, the Black Eyed Peas did a backstage Hangout at a recent concert in NYC.
Members of the media are also using this feature to their advantage – NBC affiliate KOMU-TV recently used Hangouts to give their viewers a behind-the-scenes look at what happens during a live newscast. For brands that aren’t in the entertainment industry, we envision Google+ Hangouts to be an interesting outlet for real-time customer service, live tutorials, meeting/event coverage and more.
As one would expect from a Google product, having a presence on Google+ can positively affect your visibility in Google search. First and foremost, all content on Google+ is picked up by Google search and business profiles do show up in search as well. Second, Direct Connect allows users to go directly to your page by searching “+” and your username in Google. For example, to visit Pepsi’s Google+ page, one would enter +Pepsi to be directly connected to their page without the hassle of searching within the website and sorting through irrelevant pages.
Measuring Your Success on Google+
As social media managers, we live and breathe the analytics we receive on the accounts we manage. Fortunately, Google+ syncs with Google Analytics to produce real-time analytical data. Additionally, the Ripples feature on Google+ (think “ripple effect”) offers a visual layout of how your content has spread. Not only is Ripples an interesting way to see how your content has spread, but it’s also an excellent way to help identify brand influencers.
How to Integrate Google+ Into Your Social Media Strategy
First and foremost, snag your identity now. Even if you don’t plan on utilizing your Google+ page just yet, you’ll want to secure your name before someone else does. Second, take the time to learn the platform. Take a look at some brands and public figures that are already wildly popular on Google+ and ask yourself what makes them so. A few of our favorites are Burberry, The Muppets, and Pete Cashmore. Finally, as with any other social media outlet, you’ll want to be tactical, thoughtful, establish a goal and understand exactly how and why people are using the site. The early adopters of Google+ are a savvy bunch – you’ll want to put your best foot forward and establish a dynamic presence.