It's time to pay attention to Google+.
Back in July, I Blogged about Google's foray into online social networking, Google+ (more here: Co-dependency In The Age of Facebook). At the time, the majority of the discourse surrounding Google+ was about whether or not it would be able to compete in a Facebook world. Back in July, Facebook had 750 million registered users and just last week it was announced that it is on course to hit one billion users by August of this year. While it still seems like nothing can stop the Facebook juggernaut when it comes to connecting all of us in a more social way, there's no denying that Google+ is making some interesting moves and inroads.
It's the kind of motion that should make businesses stand up and pay attention (serious attention).
There were two major events in the past little while that make Google+ an interesting opportunity for businesses. First off, their growth has been much more impressive than most people realize. On December 27th, 2011 Business Insider posted the news item, Google+ Is Adding More Than 600,000 New Users Each Day, and here's the analysis: "Google+ would have nearly 300 million users by the end of 2012 if it continues to at least grow at 625,000 new users each day. The site now has more than 62 million users, but that growth is accelerating... that could mean Google+ could have more than 400 million users by the end of 2012 if the growth keeps speeding up."
The mistake would be to simply stack that dataset up against Facebook (or Twitter or LinkedIn) to see how it compares in terms of growth, but that's really for the tech nerds to analyze. The bigger business question is this: with nearly 65 million people currently in there, can you really afford to completely ignore it? Well, the somewhat ironic fact is that the second major event may not give you much of a choice. Just last week, Google's search engine did some tweaking to their personalized search by introducing something it calls, "Search plus Your World" (you can watch a YouTube demo of it below). The idea behind Search plus Your World is both simple and elegant. Now, instead of doing a search and getting back results that have either been gamed by the companies that figured out how to best search engine optimize their website to get ranked higher, Google is now pulling information from users' Google accounts (like Google+, Picasa and potentially others in the future) giving users the ability to toggle between search results that are much more personal (and personalized) and searching the Web as Google has always done.
This takes Googling yourself to a whole other level, doesn't it?
Imagine doing a search for "great cafes in Montreal" and now being able to actually see recommendations from your social network and maybe even more real-time information like who is hanging out where... right at that very moment. This new social integration means a whole lot for businesses. While it may still be possible to optimize your way to the top of Google's search results, the social layer is where all credibility and interest resides for the consumer. Let's say that you are the Montreal café that earned the prestigious first position in the natural search results from Google, but everyone in that searcher's social graph is hanging out in another café (or making other recommendations), where do you think that leaves your business?
Google+ for business.
Chris Brogan (author of Social Media 101 and co-author of The New York Times' best-selling business book, Trust Agents, with Julien Smith) just released his latest book, Google+ For Business - How Google's Social Network Change Everything (Que), and while the title of the book may sound like a little too much hype too early, Brogan is spot on because Google can do one thing that both Facebook and Twitter can't do: make search results that much more personal (and most would argue, better). Pushing that idea further, comparing Google+ to Facebook and Twitter is probably a silly notion as Google debuts Search plus Your World, simply because Google has the power (and ability) to make Google+ (and everything being shared within it) the underlying social platform within all of its many applications (Android, Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa, Google Maps, Google News, YouTube, etc...). And - make no mistake about it - both Facebook and Twitter are not fans of having their information indexed on Google (especially Facebook, and word on the street is that Twitter may not renew their agreement with Google).
What does this mean for businesses?
At this point, it's important to simply inform yourself about these dramatic changes so that you're both in know and somewhat literate on the topic. It's also critical to ensure that both your Google Profile (Google+ Business Page) is both up-to-date and completed as comprehensively as possible. It's also not a bad idea to secure your own, personal, page on Google+ and spend some time getting acquainted with the functionality. All of this will make it easier for people to - at the very least - find you and your business (remember to add photos and fill out the "About" section as well - Google is always about optimization).
Want to go further?
Beyond that, it would also be wise to start sharing things in Google+ (Blog posts, interesting links, ideas, conversations, etc...). These are early days, and as things get busier within Google and the integration of Google+, the smarter businesses will experience "the early bird effect" (the one who gets the worm!). This means that those who create and engage with others will be eligible and have a higher likelihood of appearing in these ever-changing and evolving search results. Now, we're just left wondering if this means we have to add another online social network to our already confusing and busy Digital Marketing efforts. The answer (for now) is: yes. Because, if Google has its way (and it's hard to not see Google+ being integrated into anything and everything Google), it could very well change how the Web works for the majority of users.
That could be enough to give Facebook a sour puss. What do you think?
The above post is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - Is Google+ about to make Facebook frown?
- Vancouver Sun - not yet published.