With more than 50 million users under its belt after only a few months on the market, the nascent Google+ social network has rapidly spread its wings into the business arena by introducing Google+ Pages last month.
Should you take the plunge and set up a Google+ Page for your business? If you do, will you be posting a billboard in what will soon become a desert? I am by no means a prophet of what works and what doesn’t on the Web (I’m still trying to find someone willing to buy my shares in MySpace), but on the face of it Google+ has a lot going for it:
The take-up rate from beta launch has been phenomenal, much faster than Facebook, Twitter, or any other equivalent social networking tool.
The rapid roll-out of features shows that a lot of thought has gone into the development and long-term planning for this tool. They have applied many learnings from mistakes Facebook has made along the way.
Google+, and by extension Google+ Pages, seems to have been designed with small businesses in mind. The whole concept of Circles, where a user is able to put connections in ‘baskets’ according to the type of relationship you have with them, is tailor-made for market segmentation. You can slice and dice your connections across whatever demographic you want to create and people can reside in a wide range of appropriate demographics.
It’s dead easy to set up a Google+ Page. If you’ve got a couple of photos, you can set up your page in about a minute – and it offers more flexibility and personalization than a Facebook business page.
They’ve been talking about introducing video chat to Facebook for ages, but Google+ has beaten them to the punch by rolling it out while the service is still in beta.
The open-source philosophy adopted by Google (think of the Android mobile phone platform) means it’s easy to share information across a variety of social media platforms, rather than, for example, restricting a comment or like within Facebook to Facebook only.
Last, but not least, the fact that Google+ is owned by the world’s most popular search engine (and owner of YouTube, Google Maps, etc., etc.) means that it has an enormous amount of clout behind it. Google+ integrates seamlessly with search activities, Gmail profiles, etc. If you type a plus sign and a company name into the Google search box, it takes you straight to that company’s Google+ Page, shortcutting a list of search results. Who else can do something like that with Google? That clout and integration give Google+ a leg up on any other potential social network that hopes to compete with the Facebook behemoth.
What if you still haven’t taken the plunge and created a Facebook page – should you get involved with Google+, particularly considering the low number of users at present in Australia? To my mind, if you haven’t set up a Facebook page yet, a Google+ Page represents a good opportunity to get your feet wet with this aspect of social media. If you’re not quite sure what you’re doing, fewer people will see your mistakes during the early phases. By the time you build your Facebook page, you will have refined your social networking approach and can hit the ground running.
So yes, there is yet another social network tool to get your head around. But if you resist the temptation to write Google+ Pages off as another distraction to your marketing efforts, you can easily use it as a tool for gaining competency in an area where more and more of your customers are hanging out.
Dr. Ray Welling is the director of the digital strategy & communications for healthcare communications consultancy Vivacity Health. He also manages a small digital content agency and strategic consultancy and lectures in marketing at Macquarie University.