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The Pros and Cons of Using Google+

While debate over the value of Google+ for businesses continues, the social platform does offer an array of powerful tools and features. Weighing the good, the bad and the remains-to-be-seen of Google+ for brands.

google+ pros and cons

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.

BakeSpace Google + Hangout

  • 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+.

Google+ in Gmail

  • 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.

Louis-Vuitton

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.

Google+ Personalization

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.

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  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Pretty big fan here Brian, as when I engage on the platform I see solid shares and traffic through G Plus. Nice share…thanks!

    • http://www.brianhonigman.com/ Brian Honigman

      Awesome, Ryan! Thanks for sharing. At the end of the day, I love Google+. It still has it’s problems for businesses, but I think it’s a great place to have industry specific conversations.

  • swed

    Thanks Brian for an interesting post. As I live in Googleland (Sweden) I’m definitely fed up with Google and their growing impact on our society. Google is interfering with our authorities, lobbying our politicians and they even manage to palm off a crappy non-secure and very expensive cloud service on Swedish schools. The educational authority had to threaten with severe legal proceedings to make Google fix some very serious integrity breaches. And it was only by a ruling in the European Court that Google finally after eight (8) years of opposition had to implement a way for people to delete not relevant info about themselves. Nope, I use to hail Google but today I’m not the least impressed by them or their aggressive approach to make money. In my book that spells GREED. We sell women fashion very successful whiteout using any of Google’s so called services. I really pity all small firms stuck in the Google slough where display on the net boils down to dough. Google have made freedom of competition to a (beep) joke! My solution has been to install AdBlock on all my browsers which have made my surfing experience so very much better, not to say relieving. I really, really recommend AdBlock coz it’s a true liberator and efficiently blocks Google’s poking snout! BTW, not searching for stuff to buy on Google search… start on page three!

    • http://www.brianhonigman.com/ Brian Honigman

      Hi Swed, thanks for the input. Sorry to hear your experience with Google has been so negative. There’s certainly a limit to how connected you want a company to be with society as a whole. In my experience, Google’s delivered a lot of value to my life both personally and professionally.

      • swed

        Good for you Brian, few free things brings value to peoples personal and professional life’s these days. When Google started the founders presented a never changing vision. Their search
        engine was build to help users to find whatever they searched for… so they said. I was mighty impressed way back then, the first years when one really could find everything and the search results
        were smack on target or found nothing. Searching on Google today is a trying experience. One is first presented with tons and tons of companies related to the search key then, in a complete mess you’ll see all kind of suggestions often absolutely farfetched stuff.

        The “evolution” of G-mail has gone from good to bad to worse and the very day I saw an ad in my mail I installed AdBlock. Unfortunately it’s quite hard to change mail client over night but I will eventually do it. As you pointed out in your post “…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”. I think Google missed a couple of essential matters taking that decision. Google is not at all God’s answer to mankind. Liberty of choice is very important here in Sweden. We don’t need a Yank company to tell what’s best for us. And all this shilly-shally whit Google products high and low made many yawn at them.

        The confidence in Google among the community of small enterprises we belong to is being in free fall. Almost everyone has invested heavily in AdWords and other SEO activities but I have ever heard any of them confirming increased margins or returns. Just mentioning Google will evoke varied reactions spanning from anger to coarse laughter. Google’s auction like digital marketing system is only beneficial to themselves and very big corporations and I feel that they underestimate the collected force of many disappointed entrepreneurs.

        In our case, maybe not very surprising bearing in mind that our
        customers are women, we have had much better return investing on Facebook, even though it’s about small investments.