Digital Atlanta: Discussing the Usefulness of Google +

This afternoon, I attended a seminar sponsored by Digital Atlanta entitled, “Should I Add Google + To My Social Media Diet?” Considering the recent developments with Google +, it was apt timing for such a gathering to occur. It was a meeting of the foremost social media marketing minds, and a great deal of insight came out of the open discussion. The first bit of insight that came out of the discussion was the answer to the title of the discussion: Yes, we should be on Google + – eventually. While now may not be the right time for everybody (we will get back to this point), it will eventually become important for companies to jump on the Google + bandwagon (personally, we feel early adoption of Google + is important. Find our profile here.) So, for this blog post (since it isn’t exactly live, but covers almost exactly what was said), I will provide both my notes and my commentary. Here we go!

 

Digital Atlanta: Discussing the Usefulness of Google +

 

This was my view at the Google + event. It was at the Hudson Grille in Midtown ATL.

The Big Picture

The presenter, Garrett Kuk, Social Media Strategy Partner at Speakeasy Media, kicked off and mediated this discussion. He began the discussion by giving some background on Google +, which he called the “Big Picture.” He noted that Google created the social network in an effort to create another filter between website content and the user which will produce more tailored relevant content. This is a very good point. It’s been evident for awhile now that Google has been looking to personalize the search process, and it’s true that Google + helps them do that.

So, Why Should We Be On Google +?

1. Because of the growth timeline (40 million users in 4 months; it took 3 years for Facebook to get to these kinds of numbers.) I agree with this, but we still have to keep a couple of factors in mind: Is this REALLY that impressive, considering this is Google, the search engine that is used by millions of people all around the world on a daily basis? And remember, Facebook was really the first successful social network in terms of longevity (sorry MySpace) – that social network’s growth shouldn’t really be compared to Google +, which is just joining the game years after social networks became available. Further, the number of active users on Facebook is about 100 times the number of total users on Google + – and is about 50 times the number of active users on Google’s social network. How’d I come to these numbers? Well, Kuk mentioned that around 50% of Facebook users are active, while about 20% of Google’s users are active every month (and if my numbers are still off – please remember I was an English major and nearly failed statistics. Just saying). He also mentions that Google wants to capture a HUGE audience using Google products daily to provide information that is valuable to businesses.

TAKEAWAY POINTS: The point here is that Google does have problems (hello, failed Buzz and Orkut) and questions with regard to social media, but the search engine is nothing if not persistent. They will keep trying, and they will likely succeed. As of October 2011, 800 million people were using Facebook (50% of which were accessing it EVERY DAY), whereas you have only 40 million Google + users (around 20% are active MONTHLY).

2.  Because of new features that are continually being released (remember, it’s a learning process for Google – they didn’t have to invent the wheel, but they do have some serious competition).

Positives of Google +: The Features That Bring Something New to the Social Media Table

Hangouts and Public Video Broadcasts  – Kuk predicts that video will be very important for Google going forward. Facebook doesn’t really have a hammered out group video chat capability, so this is where Google + differentiates itself.  He mentions that the first business page hangout was held last night by the Muppets. The problem was, it was basically an hour long commercial. Businesses need to find a balance, clearly (according to me, at least- Kuk never said this but I think it was implied).

+1 Integration into Google Analytics – This allows for a successful version of  Social Search, where you can see what’s trending online. In September, Google added a +1 button for the mobile web, as well.

Integrated +1 into Google Reader Sharing Feature

Google Apps Users Enabled

Business Pages Released 4 Months Later

These are all great features, and will likely evolve to continue to be great. The problem with Google +, though, is that it doesn’t integrate well with other platforms. Facebook, on the other hand, does (cue seeing the like button on literally every web page) – and, also, if you’re wondering where online your audience and customers are right now, the answer is ON FACEBOOK. This detracts from the desire for a business to be on Google +, as very few people comparatively can be found there (if your customers are early adopters, you may find them there, though).

Right now, the time and efforts of busy businesses are better spent elsewhere (aka on Facebook and Twitter) – but this could change soon. The problem is that right now, the Google + value proposition is just not there.

Another problem: the whole, 1 admin and email per business page issue. Though AT&T is here at this discussion AND was one of the first companies to gain access to the Business Pages, this little problem undoubtedly must have made things harder for them as it would for any large business. Companies with multiple locations and therefore with multiple managers, or companies with oversight processes in their hierarchies, might have trouble with this. More than one person should have access to the Google + pages.

Though Kuk says that Facebook doesn’t really have the multiple admin functionality and that Google + should change its ways and capitalize on this fact, I don’t think I can agree here. A page on Facebook can have multiple admins (one of those admins simply has to go ahead and add another admin, and it’s not hard to do). Anyone signed onto their personal accounts who is elected an admin can work with the company’s Facebook page. If anything, it may be too easy on Facebook to change things around. Too many cooks in the kitchen? Is there a happy medium?

Another Google + issue, according to Kuk: No API (yet). Google needs to have integration across the web, like Facebook does. Basically, I think he means that the +1 button needs to become as ubiquitous as the Facebook “like” – since the number of websites with the like button is astronomical compared to the number with the +1 button. I agree with this.

An Important Question from the Audience

How do you craft your message differently on Google + than on Facebook (since on Facebook, users populated the social network far before businesses; since businesses can come in relatively early on Google +, is the message different?).

Here are some ideas people threw around in response: conversations on Google +tend to last longer than on Facebook, and marketers can form the space (unlike with Facebook). Businesses NEED to be able to have multiple admins (Google – are you listening?!) and full functionality to use Google + to its fullest potential and experience success on the social network. One woman feels that the audience segmentation allowed by circles means you can craft a message to the demographics of each circle and create customized content (which is important for marketers) – this is a VERY good point.

Many people here feel that Google + is a better forum for discussion. It has also been very good for media and journalism, where hangouts are popular and journalists can connect their profiles to their online content, which they love (consider the rel=author markup officially validated in my humble opinion!).

Direct Comparison: Google + and Facebook

Kuk mentions that businesses don’t NEED to be on Google + right now (though some do prefer to be, as one man notes that early adopting has been fine for him, as he got the business name he wanted which could have possibly been taken if he waited. The only thing is, he doesn’t solely post his info to Google + – he posts it elsewhere like on Facebook to ensure that people actually see it). However, it’s hard to tell when the right time will be to start populating Google’s social network as a business. Then, Kuk does a direct comparison of Google and Facebook, making the following point (and it’s a good one): Buyers, when online, are looking for specific and discrete information about your business, likely falling into the following categories: Awareness, Research, Consideration, Purchase, Loyalty and Advocacy. Then he listed what feature each social network has to meet these needs. Lets see how they match up (when Google is able to meet all these needs, and do so well, then you’ll know it’s time to sign up. We might also add that you should also look out for how many users are on the social network):

Google

One stand out positive thing about Google + is that you can segment each of the following, partitioning content for people at each of these stages by having separate circles for each.

Awareness – Entire web, real time search, hashtag search (can get answers from entire web when search insure Google +).

Research – Google + has many positives in this area: video content (YouTube), peer reviews (Yelp, etc.), Google + content within Google search engine results.

Consideration – Business website, social search, Google Places (these would be better if Google condensed them in a way that makes using them through Google + easy, as they are all separate right now).

Purchase – Google Wallet, Google Offers, Your Shopping Cart

Loyalty – The ability to “opt-in” to certain circles is very important (self-reported demographics), as it builds loyalty. Businesses can segment circles for customers who, for instance, want to learn only about new releases, or only want to receive special deals. This way, customers are getting targeted messages, learning what they want and will likely remain loyal to a business. (Question from the audience: Will users do it? Not really answerable at this point in time). I do agree with the opt-in point, though. After all, what’s that statistics with regard to email marketing? Around 90% of those who opt-in to email campaigns will open the emails? And somewhere between 15 and 40% of people will actually purchase what’s being advertised in that email campaign? It makes sense, if you’re learning about things you elect to learn about, you’re more likely to purchase and remain loyal.

Advocacy – +1 from Google Reader into G+ Ripples feature (i.e. if someone +1s your article, you see their face in the circle around that article. If that person shared it and has a large reach, the circle will be larger to reflect this – basically, there are different sized circles for people with bigger networks). This means they’re sharing your content, and therefore endorsing your brand.

 

Facebook

Awareness – With Facebook, as opposed to Google’s entire web access, you can only search within the platform and only get Facebook information (so, when thinking of it this way, Google is better for information gathering). Some web (Bing) results are included, but it doesn’t really compare to Google. In my opinion, this is even more reason for businesses to be on Facebook. If someone is looking for you on the platform and don’t see a word about you, they may be not only turned off, but they may continue to search on Facebook for another company rather than spending time to go over to Google and find you. Facebook is where the people are.

Research – Fan Pages, Community Pages.

Consideration “People Talking About This” – new “Insights” feature is super helpful.

Purchase – Facebook credits (okay, Google wins this round)

Loyalty – Though the like button is ubiquitous, the sad fact is that around 40% of users “unlike” a Facebook page upon finding the desired information.

Advocacy – Share button and insights. Facebook web plugin.

 

Summing Up

Well, this was a lot to digest, so I’ll leave the conclusion short and yet sweet. Though Google + has great potential, right now for businesses there is not really a compelling value proposition. Google has credibility, as one audience member noted, and being an early adopter has its advantages. But you have to create valuable content and you have to be able to only post it on Google + and still reach your audiences. And that is just not the case – yet.

 

More Information

Looking for more live-blogging like this? Looking for free tips regarding Google +, social media marketing or SEO? Continue to visit our blog for regular updates about what’s going on with search marketing. If you have questions that are more specific to your business, give our Atlanta SEO company a call at 770-481-1766.

 

Related Information:

Content Matters: AiMA Live Blog

AIMA Social SIG Event: Live Blog Coverage

Google + Brand Pages Are Here!

Google + Opens for Google Apps Users

Google Author Markup Gets the Google + Treatment

Google + Brand Pages Coming Soon

Google + Gains Users, Improves Hashtag Functionality

Google + Gains Momentum (Despite Facebook’s Overhaul)

Is Google + Becoming A Tool For An Older Demographic?