Over the past few years, it seems as if Google+ has become less of a social network to rival Facebook, and more of a place for businesses to waste precious time building profiles that are only relevant when they somehow appear at the top of search results. The sad truth is that this is how most organizations view Google’s social platform nowadays, which squanders the many ways this important tool can be used for marketing purposes.
A Brief History Lesson
To start, let’s get some brief backstory on Google’s social platform. Google+ was release in June 2011 – five years after Facebook became a network for more than just college students. Within four weeks of going live and remaining invite-only, Google+ had 25 million unique users – compared to the 250 million users that Facebook had at this point. By January 2012, Google+ opened up to everyone 13 and older, without the need for an invitation.
Google eventually began to shy away from labelling their service as a “social media platform,” and rather described it as an extension of Google services. This is a very important distinction, but we’ll get back to that a little later on. What’s important to know first is why Google+ gets such a bad rap.
The Cause of the Negative Perceptions
Google+ officially has around 2.2 billion users, more than any other social network. However, this is also from where the negative perceptions stem. These billions of accounts only exist because every Gmail account automatically gets linked to a corresponding Google+ account, so the more accurate fact would be that there are at least millions of Gmail users. Data has shown that 90 percent of Google accounts have never made a single post on Google+, and only around 5 million people interact and post publicly within the platform on a relatively consistent basis.
Through the preceding data, it’s not too difficult to realize why companies view Google+ as such a minor – or even nonexistent – tool when it comes to digital marketing strategies. With the plethora of social media platforms that have surfaced the web, many digital marketers do not want to waste their precious time on one that is not going to generate a positive ROI.
I’m here to tell you that Google+ should not be ignored in your digital marketing strategy. It should have a marketing priority almost as high as platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Don’t believe me? Then let me run through some of the facts that businesses should understand about the platform (some of which I briefly mentioned above):
1. Google+ is An Extension of Gmail
Let’s face it: basically everyone uses Gmail to some extent. It’s the #1 free email service that hit over 900 million users in May of last year – and 75% percent of those users open Gmail on mobile accounts. Those are numbers that businesses can’t possibly ignore.
But wait, why is it important that most users are using Gmail on mobile accounts? Over 60% of consumers use mobile exclusively to make purchase decisions, and that number continuously increases. This is where ecommerce businesses may want to listen up. If you have a strong presence on Google+, you are creating an opportunity to connect with the 75% of 900 million Gmail users through mobile devices, with 60% of them looking to purchase products through those devices. Having a strong Google+ following with great content puts you within arm’s reach of this huge market of potential buyers.
What’s also fortunate is that all Google programs (Gmail, Google+, Google Hangouts) are designed to work together seamlessly, which makes the chance of users stumbling on your profile very likely.
2. Google+ is NOT a Social Network
The problem that most businesses have with marketing on Google+ is that they attempt to utilize the same strategies that they use for their social media platforms. Google has stated officially that Google+ is not meant to be another social network, and companies shouldn’t treat it that way.
More users will view content posted on Google+ rather than engage with it. You will not find yourself building many relationships with customer through Google+ because you just won’t have the same functionality or active user base as social networks. The best way to actually use Google+ as a social network would be to let it be a bridge between your other networks for potential customers to engage with you there. Remember that customers don’t engage much on Google+, so provide interesting content to entice users based on their interests, so they’ll be more likely to engage with you through other forms of media.
3. Google+ Pages Are Often at the Top of Search Results
Google has full control over the systems that determine what will appear at the top of a search results page. This makes it no surprise that the first thing that users will often see when searching a specific company is their Google+ profile. This makes it very likely that these users will click on that profile without even realizing it, which means that you better have a profile that conveys who you are as a company and one that contains great content, because this may be a potential customer’s first impression of you.
Having a solid profile could also factor in to how Google’s site crawlers perceive your site as a whole. If they see that you have a popular Google+ page and mediocre SEO for your site, then your Google+ profile may go above your competition that you wouldn’t otherwise be ahead of.
4. Google+ Reviews May Be Seen Before Yelp Reviews
If you’re going to take anything away from this article, play close attention to this: Google+ reviews are critical! Adding on to the above point, Google+ profiles are often displayed with the customer review average, which may show up above your Yelp profile – often depending on how many reviews you have posted on each. This means that if your reviews on Yelp are solid, you need to make sure that your reviews on Google+ are as well.
This also gives a great opportunity for businesses that may be struggling with poor Yelp reviews, because that might not matter if your good reviews on Google+ is the first thing that they see.
However, it’s important to note that Google has not actually said that reviews impact ratings, but it’s clear that when someone is searching for your products and service and stumble across your business, they will look at your reviews before doing business with you. If you do not have Google+ reviews on your Google My Business profile, your potential customers would absolutely go to a competitor with higher ratings and more reviews instead.
The Google God is Always Watching
Marketers know that content is king, which means that Google is basically God. Utilizing their network effectively and appropriately leaves Google with a good impression of your business, which is always a good sentiment to maintain.
In the world of digital marketing, it all comes down to whether or not your ideal customers can find you right when they need you, and utilizing effective search engine optimization strategies is the key to making this a reality. With Google’s programs remaining such integral aspects of those strategies, Google+ is something that you absolutely cannot ignore.
Author: Formerly a marketer for a few Fortune 10 companies, Ajay Prasad now owns GMR Web Team, a digital marketing agency dedicated to helping businesses maximize revenue from the internet. He also invests in web-based start-ups. Ajay also operates a seven-figure web based business, GMR Transcription, which he built from scratch and grew by using strategies that he now uses for his digital marketing clients.