Many of the discussions surrounding Google+ today are centered on whether the social channel is a viable network for a majority of businesses to be actively using.
While Google+ has a range benefits for organizations of all sizes and the mainstream appeal of Facebook, it hasn’t driven the same level of engagement for many businesses and therefore, has been dubbed a ghost town by thinkers outside of the tech and marketing industries.
Like others, the social network has its pros and cons for businesses.
Either way, Google+ will continue to become a destination for brands looking to create a successful page that fosters a community and drives results for their organization.
The Benefits of an Active Presence on Google+
The features unique to Google+ are what make it valuable to businesses. These features help an organization stand out from their competitors, reap the benefits of the platform and perform better across their website, social and search.
These features include:
Google+ Hangouts: Many businesses have created either their own series of Google+ Hangouts or have held multiple, one-time events as a Hangout. Hangouts enable businesses to discuss topics of interest to their audience face to face, while including the input of others to ensure that an engaging conversation is occurring. A Hangout can drive long-term loyalty with your Google+ community because your business is able to showcase its human side and interact with audience members in real-time. Take a look at Bake Space or National Geographic Travel for examples of businesses with well-executed Google+ Hangouts.
Search Engine Optimization: Google+ acts as a social layer to all other Google properties, connecting an individual’s actions across all these products into one profile. Because of this, the activity of your company’s page on Google+ can directly affect your website’s rankings in Google search. Sharing content, building your following, interacting with others, hosting Hangouts and the other activity occurring on your Google+ page can affect how your content ranks in search. Your Google+ content will show up more frequently for people logged into their Google account with your page in their circles.
Gmail Integration: Google+ is linked to all Google products, and Gmail is no exception. When your business sends emails to your list, the latest post from your Google+ page will appear on the top right-hand side of the dashboard of all recipients using Gmail. This integration is another way for your business to spur more interactions with your existing audience by using content already shared on Google+.
Circles: The way an audience on a Google+ page is segmented is by choosing which users your business wishes to place in each circle based on your own groupings. For example, segment audience members you’re posting to by loyal customers, press, new customers, fans of product line #1, fans of product line #2, etc. Circles offer businesses the ability to segment their audiences similar to the way they would their email lists, delivering the most relevant information to each portion of their audience based on their preferences.
Communities: Similar to the ideas of groups on other social networks, Google+ communities allow users to come together to discuss and share content based on specific topics of interests. Only certain topics can be discussed in these communities since the owners can heavily moderate them. Community owners and moderators can be individuals, a business page or both. These communities enable a business to facilitate conversations and the creation of user-generated content on a subject related to their offerings.
YouTube Integration: Google+ is tightly synched with your YouTube channel, showcasing your video content on both properties for one consistent experience. When hosting a Hangout on Air, the event video will be reposted to your YouTube channel for future benefit to your audience. It’s critical to have these two social platforms connected to reap the full benefits of their use in consolidating and optimizing your video content.
Google Authorship: The writers who create content for your business need to set up authorship on their individual Google+ profiles to help drive greater visibility to your content. Author Rank is an algorithm that Google will eventually take into consideration regarding an author’s published content and how it appears in the search results. Google+ allows authors to verify ownership of their content to claim it as their own and begin to associate themselves as a credible source on various subjects. By requiring that your content creators set up Google Authorship on Google+, you’ll be more likely to gain long-term content visibility in search engines.
Lastly, the Google+ audience tends to be comprised of more tech savvy users, as compared to Facebook. This is beneficial to your business because your audience is more likely to participate in Google Hangouts and respond to the use of the social network’s unique feature sets. The more a business knows about their audience on a network, the more able they’ll be to create content and conversations that resonate with that user base with features specific to Google+.
The Downsides of an Active Presence on Google+
Similarities to Facebook: One of the major downsides of being active on Google+ is that it is very similar to Facebook in the way a user interacts with the platform to share content. A recent Forrester report highlighted how a few brands simply replicate content from their Facebook on to Google+ and it performs well.
This isn’t the ideal approach to either social network. Each community should be treated as unique with content tailored to increase their interactions with your organization. Nevertheless, some well-known brands have found that the platforms are similar enough that they can get away with this tactic.
To avoid this, alter an aspect of a post you’re sharing on Google+ by formatting the copy with some of the rich formatting options like bolding, italicizing or strikethroughs. See this Google+ cheat sheet to understand how to best accomplish this unique formatting. Additionally, add more text to your updates. Google+ users react better to longer posts in their feed as opposed to Facebook users in the newsfeed. Aim to create a content strategy that differentiates your content on the network from content elsewhere.
Limitations of SEO: Content from Google+ shows up less frequently when a person doesn’t have your page in his or her circles or is not logged in. This limits the effectiveness of the SEO benefits of a Google+ page that is often touted as a major impact of the social network.
This means that anyone not logged into their Google account will be less likely to see a Google+ page’s content in the search results. This relates to the personalization that users experience in their Google search results. Results vary depending on users and their actions across their Google profiles.
To get around this limitation, it’s important to build a relevant Google+ audience even if they aren’t particularly active on the network because they will more likely see your content in search results.
No Contests or Promotions: Unlike other social media networks, the Google+ contests and promotions policy prohibits businesses from hosting contests or promotions on Google+ pages. This policy is obviously limiting since one of the many beneficial ways to increase engagement is by hosting contests, giveaways and promotions.
To maneuver around this policy, your company can post links to a contest or promotion occurring on one of your other channels. These promotions simply can’t be hosted on Google+ or involve any Google features as a means of entry.
Lack of Market Share: There is undoubtedly potential with Google+, a large network of 540 million monthly active Google+ users and many success stories, yet many people still don’t use the service. Let’s be honest, how many people do you know who actively use Facebook, Twitter and other social networks but don’t use their Google+ at all?
Google+ may be able to inflate their user numbers to make the social network to appear more active, but could a significant amount of this activity on the channel be pulled from interactions on Gmail, YouTube and Google’s other products?
Many questions remain to be answered and lots of potential to be fulfilled on the network, but one of the major disadvantages of the platform is that many people are just not actively using the channel after they were forced to set it up as a part of the use of other Google products.
What’s your take on Google+ for your business? Do you find it a beneficial platform to reach your audience or a social network with no relevance to your message? Let us know by sharing your thoughts below.