Facebook recently announced it has hit a billion active users, while niche social networks Instagram and Pinterest as well as China's Weibo are vying for attention from brand marketers. How is Google+ making its social network relevant for brands in the region?
Malaysia Airlines Case Study
Malaysia Airlines has gained more than 58,000 fans on Google+ since it launched in March, in conjunction with its new branding initiative and A380 launch push.
Mohd Hisham Saleh, head of social media and innovations at Malaysia Airlines, said Google+ has opened new opportunities for the airline to tap different markets as well as offer additional features such as hangouts on air, which was used successfully for its A380 launch.
However, it is still in the preliminary stage when using it to measure ROI.
"For companies wanting to delve into Google+, they will need to find a way to associate their G+ page with their search results as Google+ does affect your search results as well, he advised.
On Malaysia Airlines' about page, it did made a disclaimer that any urgent inquiries or feedback should be directed to its Twitter, Facebook, and web page, which seems to hint that its Google+ page may not be as actively monitored compared to other social sites.
Latest Google+ Stats
At a video conference with Gretchen Howard, global director from Google+ for brands to press in Hong Kong, she shared the latest stats on the social network.
Google+ for business rolled out last November and it claimed to have more than a million brands set up profiles pages already.
Cadbury U.K.: Another Successful Case Study
Cadbury U.K. is a good example of a brand that uses Google+ well for consumer retention and loyalty, brand awareness, consumer engagement, and product feedback, Howard said.
In an earlier report, major brands such as McDonald's Japan, Uniqlo, Cathay Pacific, and Toyota were singled out to have some success in engaging fans on Google+ in Asia.
What About Small and Medium-Sized Businesses?
But small and medium-sized businesses in the region do not seem to be rushing to set up business profiles on the social network.
While Google does not reveal a breakdown on the number of business pages on a regional level, even third-party monitoring firms like Social Bakers do not appear to be tracking brands on Google+ closely for markets in the region.
Jonathan Liu, founder and CEO of Moonlight Marketing, a Hong Kong-based boutique social media agency, said marketers do not seem to be paying much attention to Google+ as user growth is gradual and it's not perceived as a social network compared to other niche sites such as Instagram and Pinterest.
However, with the huge network of user base and breadth of products, Google has a strategic advantage if it figures out how to add the social experience and interaction into existing users, he added.
In May, Google announced that it has rolled out Google + Local to replace Google Places.
The new feature - Local integrates Google's search, maps, and mobile to allow users to discover and share local information, which features Zagat scores and recommendations from people within the Google+ network.
Local will most likely have an impact on businesses and hotel chains that rely on Google Maps and AdWords but it would also mean companies have to start thinking strategically from a local, social, and mobile perspective instead of trying to have a presence on every social platform that rolls out in the market.
Analytics unique to Google+
In a separate interview, Ryan Hayward, Google's Asia Pacific product marketing manager for G+ shared several metrics exclusive to Google+ compared to other social networks. They include the following features:
This is not unique to Google+, but it has introduced custom URLs for profiles and pages in August to a limited number of verified brands.
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Adaline Lau, ClickZ Asia editor, oversees day-to-day editorial operations covering digital marketing from search to social media, mobile to analytics in the region. Before ClickZ, she was senior reporter at Marketing Magazine and has worked as a journalist for The Singapore Marketer and Asia Pacific Broadcasting. Connect with her @adalinelau or Google+.
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