5 practical actions and an example you can follow
Google+ is continuing to gather momentum, with more than 170 million users or more depending on who you listen to. At the same time though, there’s a lot of discussion around the number of active users and unconfirmed data that user engagement is weak. There’s no question that Google+ hasn’t arrived ‘main-stream’ yet, but we think the growth of it now warrants some attention when planning your content marketing, even if you keep the investment modest.
What’s so special about Google+?
Guy Kawasaki said that Google+ is for “passions,” that’s what differentiates it, and though that’s maybe a little vague and consumer orientated, the notion of it makes good sense.
“Businesses should jump on Google+ because it’s the Wild West, so you can stake your claim, as opposed to breaking through the noise on Twitter and Facebook.” Guy Kawasaki
Google+ is very different to Twitter (as a constant stream of brief comments and perceptions), Facebook (which is hidden away for friends) and even your own blog or content hub on your own domain. Google+ is highly visible, blog-like, has a growing set of features (good content grouping and display, plus better use of photos and the new events) and of course has the video conferencing option of Hangouts.
Tellingly, Google doesn’t want to position Google+ as a social network, with Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of social business, and Bradley Horowitz, Google+’s vice president of product, stating at the Google I/O developer conference that:
“Google+ is just an upgrade to Google, People have a hard time understanding that. I think they like to compare us with other social competitors, and they see us through that lens instead of really seeing what’s happening.”
This reinforces something
Speaking on an earnings call last October, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page has said, he wants to “transform the overall Google experience” with Google+.
“This means baking identity and sharing into all of our products so that we build a real relationship with our users. Sharing on the Web will be like sharing in real life across all your stuff.”
Let’s not forget Google’s power, either:
- They have a huge reach, bags of money and very talented people
- Google has prioritised Google+, it’s not another ‘Buzz’
- They own the (search) field and use of Google+ will give you more visibility in the search results
- They are pioneering in web browsers (Chrome), video (YouTube) and mobile (Android) software
In short, there comes a point when it makes sense to figure out how to make the first, tentative steps into Google+ for your brand or business and then continue reviewing and increasing your activity. But we’re not in agreement with Guy Kawasaki that it’s more important than Facebook and Twitter and you should neglect those.
Have a strategic purpose first
We’d suggest that it’s better to remember to think strategically first, to ensure that Google+ has a tangible purpose for your brand and ideally clear goals or KPIs assigned to its use. You need to think through how the content you post will add something to your brand, given the users of Google+ and what you can offer on it through content and updates.
No matter what Guy says, few of us are blessed with never-ending resource to just dive in, Wild West style. For example, the classic strategic approach for content marketing is to educate and problem-solve for your audience, which Google+ could easily support, the idea of thought leadership essentially.
Equally it could be that want to offer your users a ‘behind the scenes’ look at your brand, build community, or just reveal a little brand personality (including that of your team).
There are many possible angles and it doesn’t matter what yours is, we’re saying just ideally have one for Google+ for how you use it to support your brand before you dive in. It will make integrating a new channel much more likely to succeed as well as make measuring the impact clear.
Integrating Google+ for content marketing
OK, so let’s assume you’re up for it, have created a profile and got all the basics right, how do you look to integrate at the tactical level? Here are our top 5 tips:
1. Basics: Hashtags and Mentions
- Hashtags usage is now really popular, thanks to Twitter. We’re starting to see them in more and more places, helping the consumer follow online conversations – and the marketer tie social mentions and sharing to their campaign. Just as with Twitter, insert hashtags into your Google+ status updates, Google will in turn automatically link that hashtag to the search results for that key phrase. Consider pairing your status updates to high-traffic Google+ search key phrases, this can only help your updates become more visible.
- +Mentions are similar to @’s on Twitter or tagging in Facebook. It enables targeted out-reach of course. To tag someone on Google+ and get their attention, simply type +their name. By tagging people you highlight that you’ve featured them or their brand, in turn increasing your visibility.
2. Google+ loves your images
Google+ enables you to make images an important part of your content marketing. Google recognises that people love sharing photos because they’re easy to consume. Use Google+ to help bring the sharing and reach of your images to a new level. Design a content marketing plan that allows you to offer unique images shared via Google+ – making the most of an opportunity not afforded in other social networks (if only Instagram where more accessible!). Tying back to your strategy or purpose will make the tactical ideas flow much easier.
3. Re-share and re-purpose content
Ann Handley of Marketing Prof’s talks a lot about the idea of re-purposing content. A large, flexible social network like Google+ certainly makes that a big opportunity. For marketers with content archives here’s a great opportunity to re-purpose content that you’ve already produced. Again, tying back to your purpose, consider content created in other networks or maybe even offline – especially content that you know to have been well received or proven to drive traffic. It’s a new way to bring old / best of content to life, and one that could prove to be hugely cost effective.
4. Segment your audience to target content
After Hangouts, Circles are the best and most differentiating element for Google+. It enables the targeted sharing of content with Circles that you create around segments. You name Circles, labelling segments in your own words.
If you haven’t created any Google Circles yet, keep it simple and determine what circles make best sense to you. It could be thought leaders, bloggers or important partners, Chris Brogan also talks about inbound vs outbound circles – for example outbound being where you might have a targeted list of people who you want to share very specific content, or maybe a subscribed customer audience. Ensure that your circles are public in order people can be a part of what you’re building.
The Circles function is filtering really, it reduces the risk that your followers will feel overwhelmed if you post a lot of content. Remember though that Google+ is not like transient Twitter, users will more than likely expect a bit more than a stream of short, shared links.
5. Real-time feedback and hangouts
Google+’s killer feature is Hangouts, it’s also young and evolving quickly – see this nice example with the NFL in the US. Think webinars without (much) limitation. You can enable group interaction between you and 9 others (like a 10-way Skype video chat), though anyone can watch beyond that. Obama, equally, provides a good example of live broad-casting via Google+, there’s some good detail here on Mashable about that.
In terms of feedback, just post a question or idea and get responses. As a marketer, this is very useful stuff amongst partners, experts, peers or colleagues. Just testing content ideas within Circles before you dedicate resources can be a resource-saver – real-time conversations without any character limitations or pollution of your feed.
“Wired” magazine – a good example
As prolific user of Google+, a massive technology publisher and content creator in print and via a website, Wired issues daily updates pointing to curated content as well as originated across its’ website and blogs.
These are some of their features we can learn from:
- Community and team social sharing. Multiple Wired journalists have their own Google+ pages (including Chris Anderson), each shares their own work as well as content around the web that interests them or that they run across on their beats, this in turn grows the larger Wired community on Google+, an aggregation of those individuals reach when multiple journalists’ posts appear on the main brand page. This reinforces their editorial team’s authority and brings a real human element.
- Mini blog posts. Forget just short posts and link-sharing, you’re not going to get the best out of Google+ which enables users to create rich posts – marketers can add context when sharing links, offering real value to users. Wired have expanded posts Google+, more than 200 words, making them mini-blog posts compared to other social networks. Great stuff for establishing authority
- Re-purposed content unleashed. Wired feature a good mix of re-purposed content as well as the latest mix of originated and curated articles. That mix of content enables good reach for Wired.com
For a more classic consumer brand, take a look at our Google+ case study on H&M.
To find out more it’s worth taking a look at Chris Brogan’s book about Google+ for business, which he blogs about an awful lot about. This video is well worth watch if you wanted to get an introduction.