Some background on Google+
Google Plus (or G+) is Google’s attempt to tap into the dynamic world of social networking.
Its previous attempts have failed miserably but the online juggernaut is throwing everything it has at this venture to ‘make it work’.
Already, some of its innovations have been directly copied by Facebook, so we will see a game of cat and mouse between these two over the next year or so.
G+ is based around your personal profile, just like Facebook. In fact, the services do look and feel similar.
You arrange your contacts in G+ into ‘circles’. You create circles for work colleagues, family, friends, interests, clients, etc. This then allows you, when sharing content, to share exclusively to the people in a certain circle.
This fledgling social network is estimated to have half a million Australian users (Social Media News, October 2011) compared to Facebook’s 10 million Australians.
Some reasons to use Google+ in your Social Media Marketing
Although G+ has a smaller base of users in Australia than Facebook, various Google insiders and commentators are claiming that Google is paying a lot of attention to content shared in G+ to help it rank content on the web. For your business or association it means that even if G+ remains closed to official business accounts for the foreseeable future, it might pay you as a passionate business person to build into your social media marketing routine the habit of sharing interesting and valuable content through your G+ network. As always, this should be valuable content of interest to your contacts even though we are really hoping to grab the attention of the Google spiders.
If your business uses teleconferencing or videoconferencing you might want to consider equipping personnel with G+ accounts and webcams so that you can use the Hangout feature. This free feature allows a small group of G+ users to chat with each other via webcam. Although it has a novelty factor, it could be a money saving option if you have staff burning a lot of rubber around the Territory gathering for meetings (or burning time waiting in airports).
How to use Google+ for Social Media marketing
Firstly, given that as of October 2011 G+ is still a ‘personal’ networking venue (you are not allowed to set up business profiles yet), using it for marketing will be valuable if YOU are the central drawcard of your business and making yourself available through G+ is appealing to your target market.
Secondly, as mentioned above, sharing content through G+ might be a valuable extra minute to spend when you have published original content on your business blog so that Google gets a front row seat for referencing and ranking your material.
While G+ is very promising, at the time of putting this guide together (October 2011), generally low levels of engagement between members means that there is a way to go before G+ can match Facebook for vibrancy and viral outbreaks of publicity. Of course, things can change quickly in this space, so I encourage you to explore and play here in your leisure to begin with until you get a feel for this network.
One personal observation to share is that G+ content in these early stages does appear to be dominated by:
- geek material (web and computing articles and commentary, reflecting the nature of ‘early adopters who joined G+ out of their curiosity to try the new shiny object and stay abreast of technology developments)
- educational material (many teachers and educators seem to have adopted G+ in these early days to share teaching resources and discuss issues around education)
- art (photographers, writers, poets and artists of many varieties seem to have been attracted to the cool, clean archtecture of G+ where they share samples and snippets of their work to raise awareness, invite feedback and connect with like-minded souls)
From a marketing perspective, it would follow that if you can create valuable content that fits into any of these categories or your target market includes people who would identify with these three groups, it would pay you to spend some time to familiarise yourself with G+, build connections and test the waters.
Good examples of Google+ use for Social Media marketing
The personal nature of G+ at the moment means there are no great business case studies in the Territory yet.
However, following my anecdotal observations about the sharing of art and photography in G+ I have noticed it is common practice for images of the Top End being shared by tourists and visitors. Indeed, Cape Crawford Tourism in the Gulf of Carpentaria region of the Northern Territory, has stimulated chatter and discussion about its Lost City, prompted, it seems, by sharing stunningly beautiful photographs. Sandra Schleter is driving this endeavour and it would be invaluable for other tourism operators, in particular, to watch what she is doing and take note.
Things to avoid when using Google+
The early signs are that G+ users have a much shorter fuse when it comes to spammy content than Facebook users. This is a good thing. If you abide by the two commandments of social media marketing, you will avoid such pitfalls in G+.
If you have examples of Top End businesses using Google+ effectively, please share details in the comments field below.