Three unique elements that you should consider before writing Google+ brand pages off.
As the lines between search engine optimization and social media continue to blur and form one synergistic effort, it is critical that both small and large companies stay up to date with new opportunities for spreading brand awareness and connecting directly with their audiences. When Google makes a move in the social space, it's important to pay attention to, understand, and identify how the offering can and should be leveraged for your business.
With the recent announcement of Google+ brand pages, many people may be saying "My business is already active on Facebook and Twitter, why should I bother with yet another social media channel?" This is a valid question due to the amount of time and resources that are required to effectively manage each social media channel. At the surface, Google+ brand pages may seem like just another Facebook with a fraction of the user base. However, these are a few unique elements that you should consider before writing it off:
Smaller User Base
While it's true that Google+ does have a much smaller user base than Facebook (estimated at 40 million vs. 800 million), it doesn't necessarily mean you should ignore it and focus all of your efforts on Facebook. With fewer users, come less noise and more focus in the space. Facebook is packed full of updates from the recent integration of services like Spotify and The Washington Post, as well as games, "happy birthdays," and pictures of friends and family. Google+, on the other hand, seems to be driven more by content of a professional, informational, and industry-specific manner. Because of this, brands may be able to create a much more direct and personal relationship with their audiences.
Google+ offers very unique functionality with its ability to host "Hangouts," or live audio/video chats, between itself and its audience. Hangouts provide an opportunity to directly engage in discussions, receive immediate feedback, and/or provide exclusive content. One example of a brand already using Hangouts is The Black Eyed Peas, where they hosted a session backstage prior to one of their concerts. The Hangout allowed them to connect with their fans, give some inside information on the band, and thank their fans for their support (watch the full recording here).
Another creative use of Hangouts can be seen with Dell. Michael Dell mentioned the possibility that the company may soon leverage Hangouts as a place for face-to-face customer support and sales rather than requiring customers to call in.
Future Integration With Other Google Offerings
As Google continues its recent effort to unify its products and offerings, Google+ is ripe for deeper integration with services such as Google Places and Maps, Web and Image Search, and YouTube. Google has already begun this process in several ways. One of the most recent is the addition of Google +1s into Image Search.
This could become beneficial to increasing a brand's visibility, socially and via organic/image search, where the brand frequently post images to their Google+ brand page (such as artists or photographers who sell a product or service), and have an audience that is likely to share that content.
Ultimately, whether or not using Google+ brand pages is right for your business depends on your target audience and your level of creativity to use the service to its full potential. In most cases, businesses must fully understand what types of audiences they have, where they are spending their time online, and what types of content they want to consume from each service. Finding the right balance of social interaction and commercial promotion is critical in creating that connection, positively affecting other marketing initiatives such as SEO, and ultimately generating the next sale.
Are you using Google+ for your brand? If so, in what ways are you engaging your audience? And if not, why did you decide against it?
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Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.
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A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.
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