Our last post outlined some of the key features of Google+, the new social network that Google are hoping will turn it into “one giant social network”. Now, the Kurtosys blog turns its focus to what this new development could mean for businesses and brands.
Despite a strict invitation only sign-up process, Google+ has already amassed more than 10 million users. Between them they share over 1 billion items every day and use the +1 recommendation button 2.3 billion times per day.
Whilst personal users clamour to join the party, businesses are still – for the time being – out in the cold after Google said it would shut down non-user profiles. There is a glimmer of hope for brands, however, after Google’s Christian Oestlien announced that a test with business partners planned for a couple of months time will now take place next week.
He promised that Google “have a great team of engineers actively building an amazing Google+ experience for businesses, and we will have something to show the world later this year” , whilst emphasising that the way in which users talk to each other differs from the way they communicate with businesses and brands.
That’s certainly true, so what should brands hoping to use Google+ be thinking about?
Exploiting Google+ features.
At first glance, there are several ways that Google+ lends itself to business use:
Using Circles to distribute information – The fact that users can now be grouped into distinct segments, or “circles”, means that businesses can easily use Google+ to share news with both customers and employees and the shared user groups gets round some of the concerns over privacy and security that have hampered Facebook.
Using Hangouts to run meetings – Google+’s new video conferencing feature, Hangouts, could be the perfect way to meet with a sales team, talk to a customer focus group or share quarterly results analysis.
Using Huddle to distribute your newsletter – Huddle could become a way to push marketing messages and update news.
Quality content will grow in importance.
Google+ doesn’t call itself a social network, but rather a sharing platform. Quality content that people want to highlight and share is at the very heart of the Google concept.
This could be part of what makes it succeed. Getting high quality articles that match your interests, recommended by trusted associates and easily shareable with customised groups of friends could be the thing that differentiates Google+ from the more random stream of less relevant updates on Facebook.
It could mean that Google+ becomes the place to be for brands and using Circles to offer different deals or information to different customer segments could become a core part of the marketing mix.
But making their relationship relevant will be crucial.
The online world is full of debate over whether brands and businesses can be “friends” with general users on social networks, or whether the relationship is really something else entirely. It’s an issue that even the biggest brand to conquer Google+ so far, Ford, grapple with. They recently asked users: “We’re experimenting on Google+ and we’ve seen comments, both pro and con, about our presence. What would you like to see from us, in order to get the most value from interacting?”
On Google+, there is no longer one long list of “followers” or friends. Instead the new Circles feature allows you to create subsets of the people you know, grouping them together into family or work colleagues for example.
Whilst individual users will welcome having more control over the way in which they share information, for brands it will mean that getting one user to sign up will no longer mean a free entry into that person’s “newsfeed” or follower list.
Instead, brands will have to think about how to make what they say relevant and shareable.
In short, there’s a lot of excitement to come, it looks as if there’ll be some big prizes on offer, but there’s a lot of hard work ahead too.
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