The Google+ Marketing Guide
While Facebook recently announced that they reached 800 million members, Google+ has reached in just a few months an encouraging 31 million members. But are those members just Facebook hipsters looking for something new, or should we see there a serious threat to Facebook’s Social Networking monopoly? Google+ wasn’t perfect -and still isn’t, and one major limit was the lack of brand pages that would create fresh content and drive traffic to the social network from Mountain View. Well Google+ just announced the official launch of Google+ pages. So what are they? What is the difference with Facebook and should your brand be there? More importantly, how do you manage your fans across platforms?
Integration with Google services
Some may see Google+ as a failure or as a ghost town. But many others such as Chris Brogan from CrossTech Ventures, believe that Google+ is just at its premises and is going to be something huge. So why Google+? Well as Chris Brogan puts it, Google is the number one search engine in the world, and what they are offering is visibility on all Google searches through their new navigation bar.
Google+ and Gmail are also seamlessly integrated, which provides Google+ with a pool of 200 million potential users already using Gmail, and more Android devices are being sold than iPhones (3.5 million Android devices activated every week). Those are just a few of all the services that Google owns and can leverage to drive traffic to its social media platform. Potentially, Google could for example offer a better integration or greater flexibility between YouTube videos and Google+ pages in a near future. I incidentally noticed that Google+ can now stream music and play playlists via YouTube:
And on the other hand, you can now +1 the Ads streamed on YouTube which offers additional visibility for brands:
Another big advantage leveraged by Google search: Direct Connect, just type + followed by the brand name in Google Search, and you can see pages automatically display. So Google+ definitely has some potential but would people actually leave Facebook towards Google+?
Facebook is for people you already know, Google for people you are passionate about.
According to several marketing gurus such as Guy Kawasaki, Facebook isn’t the most threatened social network by Google+. Twitter is. According to him, Facebook is for existing relationships, for family, friends, and Google+ is for people sharing your passions. Because it offers such a high level of engagement and control, Google+ allows you to join communities of photographers, of artists that share your interests. Those people are people that you would never have found on Facebook and with whom you don’t necessarily want to share your whole life with, just a common interest. This kind of relationship is rather similar to the way people interact on Twitter, bonding over a common love for Football (or Justin Bieber) without knowing each other in real life. Google+ introduced a new way to categorize your connections with circles, once again very similar to Twitter lists. And to help you find good sources to follow add to your circles, Google+ added Sparks, a recommendation search engine that allows you to browse relevant sources based on keywords and themes.
But Google+ isn’t just for tech elite; some are taking advantages of some of the unique features of Google+ such as Video hangout (group video chat), to create live cooking classes or tutoring. And because Google+ is for people sharing passions, brands can potentially engage and interact with fans of their products and potential customers much easier than with Facebook. For example, there would be hundreds of way for Nikon to engage with a community of photographers sharing their best shots and ideas- provided that Google+ gives Nikon the tools to do so, because they are already gathered together spontaneously around a common interest: Photography.
Finally Google+ also offers more control for both users and brands. For example from a brand perspective, the fact that fans are not able to post directly on a brand’s wall or add photos to the brand’s albums means more control in case of a bad buzz.
Google+ vs. Facebook pages
We’ve seen the strategic difference between Google+ and Facebook, but there are also differences between Google+ and Facebook brand pages.
- Apps: The biggest advantage for Facebook apart from the existing number of Facebook users is the number of apps and plugins available for your page. Facebook allows for example ecommerce plugins, RSS feeds, Custom html… on its pages, while Google+ doesn’t allow any of this yet.
- Chats & Hangout: Both sites offer their own chat service. The advantage of Google talk (Google’s chat service) is maybe that it is also linked with Gmail. But Google goes one step further with possibly one of its best features: Hangouts (video group chat). Micheal Dell, CEO of the computer manufacturing company has made a great use of this feature through its personal Google+ page before the launch of brand pages: video chats and Q&As with fans.
- API: Because Google+ is very recent, it is hard to know what its API is capable of. However, Google mentions read access to public data and a hangouts API which can open the door to many creative ideas such as multi-personalized videos from hangout streams.
- Analytics: Facebook’s Analytics used to be quite basic but have improved recently with new metrics such as Talking About and more details. But Google+ seems to have set the bar higher with Ripples. According to Google, Ripples let you see your posts spread across Google+, who’s sharing and resharing your content, and whose opinions matter. They let you identify influencers and different communities:
As of today, there are still a few annoying limitations:
- The most obvious is the lack of customization mentioned above. I personally think that Google is still putting the finishing touches on how much they want people to be able to customize their Google+ page. In my opinion it is just a matter of time before they release Google+ apps, possibly cross-compatible with Android and the Chrome webstore.
- No multiple administrators: this is a much bigger problem. Currently one Google+ page has to be attached to one Google account and one only. That means that you either have to create a fake Google account for your brand page or give your Google login/password to the people that need access to the page.
- No content restriction for non-fans: one of the ways for a brand to encourage Likes is by running contests or posting exclusive content that only fans can see. A feature that is not yet available on Google+.
- No custom URLs: it is impossible right now to have a simple URL for you Google+ page. You would have to use something like: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/113677671328699550129/ or make use of Google’s Direct Connect mentioned earlier
As we have seen Google+ definitely has some potential mainly due to the support provided by other Google services such as Gmail, Android and YouTube. As Mashable puts it, we might see a trend in companies posting more informational content on Google+ and more consumer content on Facebook. Because not all brands are already on Google+, going now with a creative use of features such as hangouts is also a good opportunity to have some additional exposure.