Are you thinking about incorporating Google+ into your social media strategy but haven't made the leap yet? There are a few important advantages to participation you need to consider. But first, some background.
What is Google+, really?
For the uninitiated, it’s a social network. For those in the know, it’s a Facebook clone (that’s a tongue-in-cheek comment but it’s partially true). Google is understandably avoiding making any comparisons to existing social networks. If I were forced to do so then Facebook would be the most likely comparison. As you think through both this post and your strategy, Facebook will do if you absolutely need a point of comparison (at least for now).
Something to keep in mind is that Google+ is not +1. They are two separate names to two related but very different things. For those that don’t spend their professional time geeking out on social networks (I do) the terms can be confusing. That’s completely understandable. As discussed above, Google+ is Google’s social network. The +1 is their equivalent of the Facebook Like (to stretch the comparison a bit further). So when you “+1” something you are giving Google a signal that you like the page/link/ad (Yes, you can +1 an ad. Who does that?!!?).
To add further confusion to the understanding of Google+ terminology, Google is now aggregating +1 and Circle activity for business pages. I’m not even going to go there right now (see the footnote for an explanation1).
Why should you consider incorporating Google+ into your social media strategy?
As marketing practitioners we all need "another social network”, right? Well, under other circumstances I would relegate Google+ to a second tier network, monitor it for any activity about my brand and respond as appropriate. Then I would move on with my life. But this is Google and, while their network is still nascent, it does require more attention than you would give other burgeoning social networks.
These are the important and distinctive advantages to using Google+:
- Google allows for long form content (somewhere around 100,000 characters if you would like to personally test it). You can post long status messages like this entire blog post or even a novella (literally). Sure. Sure. Facebook recently also increased their character count on posts to 63,206 (Facebook … Face Boo K … hex(FACE) - K … 64206 - 1000 = 63206) but it wouldn't flow or feel right if you used all characters. The Facebook community is not used to long posts. The Google+ community see long form content regularly.
- Google+ posts can be referenced through unique links and shared publicly. There is no need to worry about whether or not someone has a Google+ account. Everyone can view your public content regardless of their Google+ account status. This is not a distinct advantage in and of itself but when combined with the next point it is important to consider.
- Google+ posts perform extremely well in the search results. Some prominent bloggers have used anecdotal evidence to support the idea that, while their blog post performs well in the Google SERPs, a Google+ post about the original blog post performs better. See this note from a former Google Apps product management lead as an example of said anecdotal evidence.
- Google “Search plus Your World” (a.k.a. social search) is a significant change to their algorithm in which social signals (mostly the +1) are incorporated into Google’s search results. Currently, signals from Twitter and Facebook are not being included in these results so activity on Google+ is the only way to increase your chances of being seen (there has been plenty written about this already). This is a complex advantage so lets look at some pretty pictures.
Look at these screenshots for an example of how social search is affecting results even today. They are both for the search term “SOPA” (an extremely egregious and disgusting bill making its way through Congress). The results are very different when social search is triggered and the difference does not have anything to do with proper SEO. It’s almost entirely based on your Google+ Circles and +1 activity.