Unique Opportunities for Businesses Using Google+
In previous articles, I have written about how Google+ Local pages impact SEO and why Google+ is not just another social networking site that businesses should wait and see if it catches on before jumping in. Google+ is an architecture that Google intends to use to bring a social layer to every Google touch point you already use on the web – search, networking, advertising, gmail, video chats, maps, mobile, etc. Having just celebrated it’s first birthday, Google+ offers businesses several unique ways to create and distribute content, expand networks, and understand how content is being viewed and shared.
When Google first introduced Google+, it’s most talked about feature was the ability to divide your social network into Circles. For businesses, this has a clear advantage. Separating your customers, prospects, vendors, and colleagues into groups that are specific to your business allows you share content with only those people in your network for whom it is relevant. Circles can also act as filters for the content you view from people in your network, making it easier to listen to what your network is saying. Imagine you had an IT consultancy that serviced Mac and Windows, Servers and Desktops. If you created Circles accordingly, you could easily share news about updates, security warnings, etc. with clients based on the information that mattered to them.
Hangout is a real-time group video chat application that is accessed directly in the Google+ interface. At first it doesn’t seem to be any different than other video chat services, but there are a couple of unique features that offer a real advantage to innovative businesses. To begin with, you can broadcast your hangouts to a wider audience through Youtube. You also have the ability to record, edit and post your hangouts on your Youtube page or host a hangout to view and discuss an existing Youtube video.
The ways for businesses to utilize Hangout – team meetings, group collaboration, customer service, easy creation of video content, and many other training and marketing possibilities – seems endless. Hangout utilizes HTML5 rather than Flash, and Google has opened the platform to 3rd party applications through an API. They are hoping this distinguishes Hangout from other video chat applications and continues to get consumers and enterprises hooked on their platform and services. You are currently able to download games and office related applications including whiteboard and slideshow sharing.
Google+ Events is a new feature that was introduced at the developers conference last month. It also offers some unique features that can be used creatively by digitally adept businesses. It acts as a shared photo album for all participants of an event – In conjunction with the Circles filtering, this becomes a quick and easy way to share photos and control who sees them. In party mode, people participating in the event can upload photos from their mobile devices and a stream is created chronologically.
This new social architecture offers businesses many ways to promote both their Google+ Local pages and content on their own sites in an effort expand their network. Understanding how Google connects your web sites with your Google+ Local profile is critical to taking full advantage of what is being offered to you.
By now, you are used to seeing the Google +1 button just about everywhere on the web. It allows viewers to share their preference for an article, video, business page, etc. with their Google+ network (filtered by Circles). More and more, you will see these preferences of people in your network showing up in search results, ads, Local, Maps, on your mobile devices, etc.
With a Google+ Local page and a verified URL, Direct Connect shows users who search for your business name and the “+” sign your page highlighted in their results. It displays recent posts and a preview of your profile and gives them the option to add you to their Circles, directly from the search results page. Businesses can help customers see recommendations from people in their network, wherever they find you on the web by connecting +1′s for your website with +1′s on your Google+ Local page as well as Google ads. You can link your Google+ Local page to your site using a Google+ Badge – a snippet of code that is created on the Google Developers site and pasted into your site.
Finally, Google promises that it will soon introduce many robust features allowing you to measure and track your engagement with your network wherever it occurs in the Google+ social platform. These include Google+ Search which Google claims can help your business “to understand better what people are saying about your brand, reward superfans with rebate coupons or even jump in to help resolve customer service issues”, Ripples to show you how your content is being spread across the web and which users are most influential, Social Reports in Google Analytics, Google+ Local page metrics, and API integrations for 3rd party development.
Google claims that they now have 150 million active Google+ users, with 50 percent signing in daily, and that Active Google+ users are now spending more than 12 minutes a day in the stream – up from 9 minutes a day a few months ago. Mobile users are more active than web users, so expect development to continue with a strong focus on hand held devices, tablets and local search. Google+ Local pages have to be an essential part of any marketing strategy that utilizes SEO, SEM or aims to attract local traffic.
Google has produced a series of 11 videos that highlight the features on Google+ to learn more about how you can take advantage of these changes