When Google launched its own social media platform, Google+ (G+), a few weeks ago to a small, closed audience, you could almost hear the collective groan across the internet. Do we really need another social media outlet? Is this going to be another Wave experiment? Is this going to be another Buzz failure?
And then when people were allowed into the ever-increasing-beta-test group, some additional groaning cropped up that this is a Facebook wannabe.
Well, I’m here to tell you that G+ is not a Facebook copycat, it is here to stay, and once the public door opens, G+ is going to be an ideal social network for brands.
How Google+ Differs from Facebook
- It allows you to follow people who don’t follow you, like Twitter.
- It allows you to instantly share your status, likes, photos, and videos, like Facebook.
- It allows you to post a pseudo-resume and network with others who share similar work interests, like LinkedIn.
What distinguishes it from these three are its Circles. The Circles are user creations that contain specific groups of who they follow. For example, I have a Friends Circle, a Gamers Circle, and a Business Circle. With these Circles, I can dictate which followers can see specific posts, photos, videos, profile information, etc. For instance, when fellow colleague Chris Nitz posted a super horrific photo of a spider on G+, he set the post so that only a few of his Circles could see it (and sadly for my arachnophobic self, I was in one of them). This way, if I want to post about something regarding video games, I can do so without forcing my non-gaming friends, family, and business contacts to see what nerdery I’m doing that they don’t care about.
Now, this doesn’t mean that your G+ posts won’t be found by anyone outside your Circles ever, so reel in those thoughts of blasting your boss or drunk uncle. The adage of be careful what you put in on the internet still greatly applies here. After all, Google is primarily a search engine, and it plans to use G+ as a way to enhance the user experience for search engine results. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on how Google is “socializing” search.
In addition, G+ offers “Hanging Out” sessions, where up to 10 people in a circle can have a video chat. Right now, Facebook only allows video chats between two people, and anyone who has tried to use Skype for more than four people knows how iffy that can be. The most I’ve used the G+ video chat for is four other people, and we had very little problems in terms of sound and video quality. It gives iChat a run for its money, that’s for sure.
What Google+ Can Do for Brands (once they open it up!)
With the ability to convey messages to specific Circles, businesses can deliver user-centric messages to specific sets of users. In other words, they can tailor their messages to several different audiences and deliver them all at the same time, instantaneously. As a result, businesses can have multiple conversations with their multiple audiences, and all without their audiences seeing the other conversations. One could market to specific demographics, regions, products, etc. The possibilities of how to efficiently use this feature are endless.
It’s also very likely that Google will be using G+ in its new Panda algorithm that will factor in social media responses for search results. As more conversations receive little +1s and are shared across G+, the Google search engine may pick that up as an authoritative source for a topic and rank it higher within the search results. G+ already has a feature called Sparks in its beta, which aims to bring topic streams to the user’s attention. It’s like a personalized news feed for your favorite topics (Sparks). (For me personally, it’s a nice shortcut from my iGoogle feeds.)
With these Sparks already in place, it’s also really likely that Google will merge G+ findings in with Adwords. This way, advertisers can search for ideal keywords based upon their target audience’s demographic as well as their region. There’s also a distinct possibility that shared ads and ads that have been +1’d could have a higher position rank in search results. The more people who like or recommend an ad, the more the likely the ad will appear on the front page of search results, which will even the playing field for companies who may not be able to afford those high first page bids.
What Google+ Won’t Be Doing for Brands
As you may have gathered, Google+ will not be focusing its services on helping brands; it’s entirely focused on the user and the user experience, something that is slowly getting churned out with the Panda 2.2 update for Google’s search engine. So what does that mean?
It means that Google will force brands to do what they’re supposed to do: entice the user and give the user a rewarding experience. If users are not happy with your brand, Google will not only give these users a forum to express their complaints, but they will also take these complaints into consideration when it comes to search engine results and search engine ad positioning.
In other words, it’s time for brands to pony up and put their money where their mouth is. It’s becoming more and more important to make sure that your message is properly conveyed to the right audience, and social media is becoming one of the most important venues for doing so. Have you developed a social media management department yet or hired an external company to manage social media for you? If you don’t have a social media expert on hand by now, be prepared to be left behind and be left off the world of search.