Since it was first launched, the general sentiment in the business community toward Google+ has been dismissive. The only social networks worth taking seriously were the powerhouses of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. In contrast, Google+ was a ghost town.
So why would business — in particular, small business — waste time and other resources adding Google+ into the mix?
As the advantages for business in using Google+ become clearer, all the signs are this pervading attitude toward Google+ is now changing.
What are the actual stats?
There are now more than a billion accounts on Google that are enabled for Google+. Out of these, 360 million users are active. Their +1 buttons are clicked five billion times every day.
Admittedly, these are smaller stats than Facebook, with its 1.2 billion monthly active users. But Google+ is a young network, and these are hardly ‘ghost town’ figures.
The important point for business owners is that it is growing at 30 percent per annum. That means, with increasing numbers jumping on board, the time is now to start growing a foothold in the network as it gains momentum.
Leave it too long, and you’ll find competitors gaining a strong Google+ presence and leaving you behind. This will translate into a competitive disadvantage for your own business you may struggle to overcome.
Put it the other way, and you have an opportunity right now to create such a competitive advantage for your own business.
So what are the key reasons businesses are now taking Google+ seriously, and beginning to jump on board in droves?
1. Google+ Business Page
Along with a personal page, you can also to create a page on Google+ related to your business, and attract followers to it.
This has three key advantages:
- SEO: the more followers you attract who are actively engaged with your business or brand, the more the page rank of your business page will grow, impacting the ranking of your main web site as well as increasing your online visibility as a whole. This is one of the key reasons that companies like The Economist and Starbucks use the platform.
- Free Advertising: Creating a business page gives you, in effect, a highly visible ad on Google search, showing information relating to your business, recent posts from your page, and social proof data in terms of your number of followers. Search ‘Starbucks’, ‘Ford’, or ‘Economist’ on Google and you’ll see what I mean — these are all examples of top businesses who are now taking Google+ seriously, and have millions of followers each to show for
- Adwords: Once your business page attracts more than 100 followers, you’ll automatically get social proof endorsements on your Adwords ads, where they calculate such endorsements would benefit your campaign. This translates into higher click-throughs on your ads as well as potentially lower ad costs.
I mentioned SEO above, but the SEO advantages are not restricted to having a business page. Your activities on Google+ in general also impact your search engine visibility in other ways.
For example, it’s now also one of the factors in the way personalized results are created for users. If someone is following you on Google+, they are more likely to see the content you have authored (see Google Authorship below) or +1′ed.
Therefore, there is a direct correlation between the number of followers you attract and your search engine visibility. And thus the amount of traffic Google sends your way.
This is an important aspect of Google+ many businesses are simply not aware of. But that awareness will increase — so the earlier you start, the more advantage you will gain before your competitors even realize what they have been missing out on.
3. Traffic Referrals
Your traffic can grow in two ways:
- Direct traffic: Sharing your content on Google+ results in click-throughs to your site from your own followers, as well as people your followers then re-share your content with. The more followers you attract, the more your traffic from Google+ can grow.
- Indirect traffic: As mentioned above, you also gain from increased search engine visibility. As your content shows up on Google more often, you attract more traffic to your websites and Web properties.
4. Google Authorship
Your Google+ profile gives you an online identity that can then be associated with all your content. As a result, your profile picture can be displayed next to your content in the search engine results, increasing click-through.
It also raises your online profile, helps attract more people to follow you on Google+, and reinforces your authority and influence for those who are following you. In many ways, it becomes a virtuous circle.
5. Targeted Communications
E-mail communication is becoming decreasingly effective. People are choosing to communicate increasingly through social media channels. It avoids inbox overload and often makes for easier and more personable communication. Your ability to communicate with your customers and prospects through multiple channels, including social media, is becoming vital.
In increasing the personability of communications, social media can help to build stronger relationships with your prospects and customers. It also has great potential to create raving fans of your brand who will help spread your marketing message for you.
Google+ provides the ability to communicate in a very targeted way, through their use of ‘circles’. So you might have prospects for a product in one circle, existing customers in another, joint venture partners in another and so on. You can make your posts available to each circle individually.
You can also use Hangouts, which enables you to have live chat or even video chat sessions with other Google+ users.
Many businesses are already using these to great effect, building powerful relationships and proponents of their brand, and even assisting communications between co-workers who may be geographically separate.
To conclude, imagine this.
You see two ads for something you were interested in, one showed social proof of more than 10,000 followers, and the other showed either no social proof or a far lower number, which one are you more likely to trust, give credibility to, and click through on?
The more important question for you is this. Which position would you prefer to be in as a business?
With all the above advantages in mind, it pays not to be left behind on this. The winners will make Google+ a central part of their marketing strategy, and enjoy all the advantages as the number of their followers grows in tandem with their online influence and visibility.