Google+ best for Google, but best for your brand?
In its most recent update on the number of active Google+ users, Google now claims that on a monthly basis 540 million users are actively interacting with Google+ across Google.
Perhaps more significantly, 300 million users are active interacting with the Google+ "in-stream" in some way, and not just logging into using the unified platform to check email or watch a video on YouTube.
This data from on social media network platform active usage from Global Web Index also suggests Google+ is now more significant than Twitter or LinkedIn measured in this way.
Network growth Q4 2013
This best the questions for marketers, that with 540 million active users in total, can Google+ finally lose the 'ghost town' label?
Overall it seems wrong to characterise it as a Ghost Town now, but within specific demographics fewer are active than the main networks, so it may well be a ghost town for certain age groups.
So, it is clearly worth considering increasing your activity and engagement as part of the wider social media mix.
By interconnecting the separate products into the Plus network, there is no doubt that Google is making a massive win. Where previously, they were unable to make any link between you as a person, the content you searched for and the videos you watched, they can now record it all and make their insight richer.
“Google Plus gives you the opportunity to be yourself, and gives Google that common understanding of who you are.”
- Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product management for Google+.
What does this mean for you as a brand?
Whilst volume of 'fans' and genuine engagement on Google+ are lower than that for Facebook, it provides associated benefits that are not achievable via other social platforms.
Data and targeting
As an advertiser, the insight Google collects means the associated products you as a brand invest in can be more closely targeted to your audience e.g. AdWords or GDN campaign structure.
Google+ means that targeted data-driven solutions can benefit from understanding users' relationships and how they spend time across the 2 million websites in Google’s ad network. Its new +Post ads that are being tested by larger brands enable brands to engage users through content across more networks.
Unlike other social platforms, or 'walled gardens', Google+ is unsurprisingly crawlable for search, which means that your Google+ posts could be ranked where your website and other content are not i.e. position 1 of natural search.
Google integrates posts through Authorship and Local information to offer prime search real estate that could otherwise be out of reach for many budgets, all in return to getting brands to add value to the network with up to date and good quality content. This deep dive into by Gianluca Fiorelli shows where Google+ interactions can now surface throughout Google's SERPs.
Whilst there may be less sharing and interaction than other social platforms, Google+ is a valuable asset in your social media strategy.
There's less sharing of cute kitten videos on Google+. Typically the users of the network are discussing and sharing opinions that they are passionate about, and using Circles and Hangouts to engage with them is a winning technique.
Although usage by brands is growing, there's a good chance your competition isn't using it yet, which offers you the first-move advantage but, more importantly if your business relies on local customers, could make the difference of not being found at all.
There are therefore many advantages to using Google+, and as with any social network strategy, we recommend starting from the basics and understanding if your audience and company is right for the network.
For a review of how to use Google+ to engage users across the touchpoints of the Smart Insights RACE planning framework, use our Google+ Marketing Guide which also has many inspiring examples of how brands are using Google+.