Google circles

Google+ for business: Future opportunities

Following the launch of Google+ almost exactly a month ago, we thought we’d take a look back at the new social network and highlight opportunities that small businesses should be aware of, and areas that (if they develop) small businesses need to react to to ensure they get in there first.

Let’s quickly take a look at the statistics for Google+ after one month’s use:

– 25 Million users by Mid July (after little more than 20 days online)

– 33.6% Women / 56.4% Men

– Average age is in the 25-34 years old bracket

More statistics can be found on this infographic.

Now, Google+ is not yet ready for businesses. Unlike the other social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Google+ has no platform for brand pages so you shouldn’t expect to see businesses setting up on the network just yet.  However, branded pages will eventually arrive once the membership figures are higher, so small businesses have a great opportunity to learn the platform, spot the opportunities and think how they can use the site, well before it’s opened for use. This blog post is written to get you thinking about the differences in Google+ from LinkedIn and Facebook, as understanding these will be key when you want to start your own brand page in the future.

Focussed messaging

Google circlesThe first difference in Google+ is in the way you communicate with your contacts.  Google Circles allows you to set up different custom groups of followers or contacts to communicate individually with so that you can focus your messaging more closely to their interests. The issue with Facebook is that you can’t tailor your messages to specific groups, you have to send out updates and messages to everyone, many of whom may not be interested.  With Google+ this has changed. If this is rolled out onto branded pages, we will all have the option of segmenting our followers into groups and communicating more specifically with them. So, you could have a circle for your networking events, a circle for your IT partners, a circle for prospective customers, a circle for staff members and a circle for current clients. You won’t want to be sending marketing messages to current clients, or an in depth tech update to a sales manager, so with Google+ you won’t have to.

It’s important to understand this difference when using Google+, as users will become more and more particular about the messages they receive from brands.  Due to the functionality and ease of use of Google Circles, people will expect to recieve only appropriate messages from the brands they follow on Google+, so small businesses will have to use this facility well.

Blogger and Picassa

Google recently announced that they will be closing their long running Blogger and Picassa services and rolling them into Google+. What this means for Picassa is fairly obvious, Google wants to build a photo sharing repository on Google+ and the already popular, tried and tested Picassa is a ready made solution for this. However, Blogger (Google’s blog writing platform) has been losing significant market share to WordPress for quite a few years, but its cited inclusion in Google+ has pricked up many ears in the industry.  Sharing blog posts on sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook means traffic leaves these networks for another venue in their thousands, losing advertising revenues for the social networks. If Google were to develop a blog platform with the functionality of WordPress, they could continue to monetise the users journey as they click through to a blog post as they would be simply viewing another page provided by Google.  For small businesses, the ability to write a blog within Google+ itself has it’s advantages. A smoother reader journey between social network to blog platform, better SEO (Google will rank it’s own blogs more highly..) and , in theory, higher traffic from the network. Keep an eye out for Google offering a blog service within Google+ and, if possible, get started as early as you can on it.

SEO and the Google +1 buttonGoogle Plus

The Google +1 button is a social ranking and sharing tool similar to the Facebook Like button that brands and bloggers can install on their site.  Essentially, readers can click the +1 button if they’d like to recommend the blog post to their audience, a service that Google has incorporated into their search algorithm to decide if a blog post is influential enough to feature high on Google search results. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised this week to see several SEO agencies selling 50 to 1000 +1s for a price, as part of a “social SEO” strategy to fool Google into thinking these pages and posts should feature highly in search. However, Google will continue to fight against people trying to cheat the system, and the +1 button should become a highly important aspect to boosting your websites page ranking.  Because of this, sharing your businesses blog posts, infographics, videos and reports in a targeted way on Google+ will be a great way to boost the +1s for each post and, therefore, the rankings of these pieces of content on Google search.

Google+ instant uploads

Google’s mobile offering is strong. With Google+, photos and videos taken at events will be instantly uploaded to the page, allowing you to keep your clients and followers in the mix if you’re presenting at a conference or networking at a local group. Finding clever ways to provide fresh, helpful content, quickly, will help to boost your businesses Google+ page.

Analytics

Finally, one bug bear for many businesses running a Facebook or LinkedIn profile is the fact that analytics are provided by a different system so that comparisons can’t be made between website and social network.  For example, Facebook analytics are useful, but it’s difficult to compare them to a website as they are on different systems. How do you know that the stats for Facebook visitors are comparable to your blog or website? Unfortunately, you don’t.  However, if Google were to integrate their analytics package into Google+, small businesses could easily track which online venues have had the most success, work out what has worked well and see where the traffic is really going in their social presence.  It’s a huge benefit and one that I seriously hope Google+ makes possible.

So, Google+ is a social network that all small businesses should have their eye on. First mover advantage has been shown to be very important in business social networking, so finding ways to trial new ideas in Google+ before your competitors is a great way to get an edge over them online, so take a look at Google+ and watch out for the launch of brand pages later this year.

If you’d like to know more Google has filmed a series of 11 videos explaining the features of Google+.  Take a look and let me know if anything else stands out as useful for small businesses in the future


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