Barely two years back Google+ was the bullied kid on the social media block. No one thought it would take off – not when Facebook was doing so well, and although pretty much everyone registered or had a profile by virtue of simply having a Google account, it took a while for people to catch on.
Things have changed. As of December, Google+ reported it had 343 million active users. This is comparison to Facebook’s 693 million users, which means that Google+ is now the second most used social platform out there. YouTube and Twitter are close behind vying for third place.
What makes G+ so useful
Google Plus’s increased popularity isn’t just down to the way the company has linked its various products (YouTube, Google Search, Google Places, etc). It’s also because it has some really nice features – features that make it indispensable when performing a search or favouriting a link.
Here are some of the things that set it apart from the rest:
- An updated user interface – it looks pretty now and it’s super easy to use
- It’s really just nice to be able to +1 links you like directly from the SERPs
- Google Authorship is looking to become a pretty important SEO ranking factor
- You can respond to Google+ comments direct from Gmail
- Google Places got combined into the Google+ mix
- It integrates with all of your other networks. If you’ve got a YouTube account, you’ve got a Google account. Very clever
- Google Hangouts is cool. Stylish, multiple chats and videos available too
- Companies got on it when they started getting ‘Knowledge Graph-style’ results on the right-hand column of the SERPs
- Google+ Communities – the equivalent of Facebook Groups but better
Google+ and Advertising
And best of all – Google doesn’t look like it’s going to be pushing advertising on G+ anytime soon.
In November 2012 at the Ignition Conference, Google+ Vice President Bradley Horowitz said:
“It’s much more useful (and less annoying) to users to show social social recommendations instead of ads. For example, if you search for a product in Google – say a microwave – you can see which one your Google+ contacts recommend.”
Much of what Horowitz said was in response to being asked about Facebook’s advertising strategy.
“Jamming ads and agendas into user streams is pissing off users and frustrating brands too. That’s not the way the world works.”
If ‘ad-free’ is indeed the way Google intends to continue, I’m willing to bet their active user stats will just keep on increasing. This really sets it apart from the rest and makes it an appealing platform to use.
Here’s how I’m using G+
In the last 6 months, I’ve been using Google+ a lot more than I was before. This is largely down to the fact that working in the digital sector requires I know what is going on, so being aware of what is out there and how others are using it is eseential. However, there are a number of other reasons that have recently made this platform a whole lot easier to use:
1) More of my friends are joining Google+ and, many of the ‘technical’ people I work with are already on it and actively using it. Everyone has a Google account anyway, so even those that don’t ‘do’ social are doing it. Even my parents are on it. In fact, my father’s becoming a master – he’s even better than my sisters and I don’t think he even knows it’s a social platform! I recently shared a post about ‘being South African’ and included his name in the post. Naturally, this triggered an email. All my father had to do was respond to the post from within Gmail and…voila…he was using G+. This is social media at its brightest – seamlessly integrated into the user experience and this, at the end of the day, is why Google+ will trump Facebook.
2) The Google Authorship verification is just something I love. Maybe it’s that little picture of my face that displays in the SERPs (how vain!) or maybe it’s just the fact that it makes a lot of sense. Now, for the first time, no matter who I write a post for, it gets attributed to ME. And, if I’m doing research on a particular subject – say SEO – seeing Danny Sullivan’s face pop up next to a search result makes my quest for information a whole lot easier as Google has ‘verified’ this is an original by Danny.
3) +1 is addictive. I’m a ‘Google Extension Girl’ and Pocketing, Kippt marking, Pinning and adding content to Evernote, Wunderlist or Springpad is about as second nature to me as drinking tea. What makes +1 even better is that I can do it direct from the SERPs. Or, if I download the chrome extension, direct from my browser. And now, with Google’s updated interface, I can even scroll through all the sites I’ve ‘recommended’.
The only thing that irritates me a little bit is ‘personalised search’. While the concept does make perfect sense – it displays the articles that you’ve +1’d first if they’re slightly relevant to your search – I still find it distracting. When I do a Google search, I’m typially looking for information that I don’t have/don’t know. If I wanted to find an article I +1’d, I’d simply go looking for it in my database of +1’s, now neatly stored away for me in my Google+ account.
How should YOU be using G+
Typically, when I write about social media or talk to clients about their social media presence, I tell them to think very carefully about the networks they choose to use. While Facebook will suit one type of business, it may not suit another. A manufacturing website for example will likely not get much out of using Facebook – after all, who wants to be bombarded by pictures of machinery when they’re spending an evening catching up on what their friends are doing? LinkedIn would be an infinitely better place for a manufacturer to focus their attention, especially as this platform has a far more professional feel. Google+ is different. Yes, I’m going out on a limb here, but it’s what I believe and that’s largely because of the link between Google Search and Google+ but also because of some of those very new and very useful features within the Plus product itself. This includes community pages, which allows users to find groups of people based around specific interests, and it includes Google Hangouts – a feature totally unique to Google and which makes organising a panel discussion amazingly easy. Even better…you can now upload your Hangout discussions to YouTube. What more could you ask for?
At the moment Google+ is incredibly under-valued for it’s use as a B2B networking platform, though I don’t think this will remain the case for long. It’s better than LinkedIn for a couple of reasons: it allows you to follow industry experts or ‘influencers’ (where LinkedIn’s only got about 250 for you to choose from) and it makes having long conversations a lot easier too. And let’s not forget the link to Gmail – Google+ discussions land right in your inbox, if you choose. Brilliant.
So, if you’re not already using Google+, go and set up your page right now. If you need help creating a content strategy or a marketing plan, get in touch with us. If you simply need social media training, we’d be happy to do that too. Or, if you’d like us to develop a content/marketing strategy, it’s no problem.