So towards the end of last summer, you got all excited because Google was unveiling their new social network. You signed up, took a bit of a look around, maybe posted a couple times, figured that Google Plus was basically like Facebook (except
none of your non-work friends were on it), and started to forget about it before you ever really got into the meat of what it was all about. Frankly, it’s worth taking a second look at, so I wanted to spend a few moments showing you exactly what you need to know about.
First, let’s take a quick look at some the features on Google Plus that you can’t really find anywhere else, then we will explore some of the reasons you really should be using it both personally and as part of your social media plan.
Google Plus has several features that are worth checking out, the first is “Circles”. Circles allow you to organize all of your contacts into different groups, which become important when you begin to post content to your profile. Each post you make to your profile can be made completely public or you can set it to only be able to be viewed by people in the circles you indicate. For example, a local pizza place could announce publicly that they are having a free pizza day or they could organize all of the people who spend over $100 a month on their pizza into a circle and invite just the people in that circle as part of a customer rewards program. This feature is extremely handy if you have multiple audiences or just want to share different content with different people.
Another interesting feature on G+ is the way that it incorporates hashtags. Google Plus hashtags are a little bit different than the ones you are used to on Twitter. While clicking a hashtag on Twitter will only show you other tweets that have used that hashtag, G+ takes it a step further by using good old Google know how to show you all of the relevant results containing the words in the hashtag, even if no one else has used the exact combination of words in your hashtag. For example, if you click on hashtag #socialmedia in someone’s G+ post, it takes you to a sortable list of all relevant posts, pages, and profiles that contain the words social media.
The last feature of Google Plus we are going to talk about is “Hangouts”. Hangouts allow you to host a live video chat with up to 9 other people (for a total of 10, including you) where you can all interact, watch videos, listen to music, share your screen, or even collaborate on a Google Doc from anywhere you have an internet connection. Oh and if you have a front facing camera on your smart phone, you can use that to hangout if you don’t feel like hauling your laptop around. This feature can be used in combination with the Circles feature so you can let as many people as you would like know that you are available to “Hangout”.
As you can see, some of the things you can do on Google Plus are pretty cool, but what really helps to set it apart are the benefits you get from using them.
Let’s be honest, Google Plus IS Google! Regardless of your personal feelings about Google search results, with over 60% of search engine use in the United States, they are still the big dog on campus when it comes to finding what you or looking for. What does that mean for you or your brand? Well for starters, how would you like your picture and profile to show up on top of the search results the next time a prospective employer (or first date!) runs you though Google? Set up and use Google Plus and it can be accomplished fairly easily (check out my mug below, you can see my profile directly next to the search results.).
Granted, that’s pretty cool for personal branding, but Google didn’t stop there. They are applying this to brand pages and “subject experts” as well. Which means, the next time someone looks up your brand (or in some cases a related keyword) these results will show up along side the traditional search results. Pretty neat huh? On top of Google showing G+ profiles on the sides of search results, Google has started to use its +1 button (similar to the Facebook Like button) as an indicator of popularity, which means companies with active profiles have started to experience a bump in their search position for keywords that are important to their brand, a result I can personally attest to.
In addition to the effect G+ is having on search results, there is another benefit that is arguably more important for those of us in the Ad/PR/Social Media world. Social Media marketing is all about the interactions between customers and brands right? Remember the “Hangouts” we talked about in the features section? They are not just for personal profiles. That’s right, brand pages can have live face to face chats with their customers on Google Plus. It doesn’t get much more interactive then a live conversation, does it?
These are just a few of the things you need to know about Google Plus, before you start using. Still not sure you should be using G+ or think we missed something? Let us know in the comments section below!