Leave it to Google to interfere with my family vacation. The extended Davis family – Mom, Dad, my two brothers and their wives, my nieces and nephews, my Dad’s sisters and my cousins – all gather once a year at Amelia Island, Florida. I asked Google and the other major search engines to not release any major news during the last week in June so I could take off my Market Hardware hat for a few days and not think about Web marketing. Google must have lost my email, because on June 27th they released their latest and greatest social media product – Google+. I will express my displeasure by not sending Google my usual Claxton Fruit Cake this Christmas.
Google has attempted to dive into social media before with unsuccessful products such as Google Wave and Google Buzz. But their people sharpened their pencils and spent a year or so developing what appears to be a winning social media platform. After only a few weeks, Google+ already has 10 million users. That’s a far cry from Facebook’s 750 million users, as well as Twitter’s 200 million registered accounts, but still an enormously fast adoption rate. Google+ may represent a legitimate long-term threat to Facebook’s dominance of the social media market.
Like other social media sites, Google+ allows you to interact with other users by becoming friends with them and easily sharing information, pictures, and the like. But instead of characterizing all of your connections into one group, Google+ allows you to create ‘circles’ for various categories of friends. For example, you may have a circle for family, co-workers, or even for your once-a-week biking club. These circles also increase your privacy, as your Google+ network becomes partitioned. For instance, a picture shared in your ‘friends’ circle, will only be seen by people in that circle, so your family won’t see that embarrassing picture taken while you were at your high school reunion.
Thousands of businesses like yours will fail if they don’t build a presence on Google+. Just kidding. Making sure you are still paying attention!
Actually, for the time being, Google is focusing on only individual (personal account) users instead of business users. If they see a business that has built a Google+ profile page, Google will take it down. You may see a few businesses on there that were invited as beta customers, but they are the exception. Here is an explanation from Google Product Manager Christian Oestlien:
With so many qualified candidates expressing intense interest in business profiles, we've been thinking hard about how to handle this process. As a result, we have refocused a few priorities and we expect to have an initial version of businesses profiles up and running for EVERYONE in the next few months.
In the meantime, we ask you not to create a business profile using regular profiles on Google+. The platform at the moment is not built for the business use case, and we want to help you build long-term relationships with your customers. Doing it right is worth the wait. We will continue to disable business profiles using regular profiles.
We are going to monitor Google+ and will put out a tweet and information in this newsletter when they start letting businesses create profiles. Until then, we have two classes of Web marketing advice for you regarding Google+.
Advice 101 – Make sure you have claimed and fully filled out your Google Places (also known as Google Maps) profile. You may have already had us do this for you. If not, email me and we’ll help you out. All indications are that Google aims to deeply integrate Google+ with its other features to create the best possible user experience. While Google doesn’t let us look behind their curtain, past experience has shown that Google gives better positioning to those businesses that are already engaged with their site. For instance, if you have verified your Google listing, and have provided a thorough amount of business information, you may get a first shot at building a Google+ presence. Google might also provide you with a one-click way to migrate your profile information to Google+. I can’t guarantee any of that, but it’s a more informed opinion than a hot tip on a “can’t miss” pony in the 4th race at Belmont.
Next, let Google’s significant investment in research and development in a social media platform and their specific mention of future functionality for small businesses give you some pause if you have been skeptical about the marketing value of social media. But only pause long enough to call us and ask for advice or direct help in building your business a successful, sustainable social media presence. All other things being equal, our clients who are on Facebook, Twitter, or have a blog, are getting more business from the Web.
Advice 201 – If you aren’t active on social media yet, you are missing out on the best way to Improve your word-of-mouth and turn more referrals into sales. You should start with a Facebook business page NOW. If you need help getting started on Facebook, send me an email. Market Hardware can help.
At the same time, get to know Google+ in addition to Facebook. You or someone with marketing responsibility at your company can create a personal page, so you can start to understand Google+’s unique features like "circles" – a way of segmenting groups of people with whom you are associated – and "sparks" which I will leave for you to discover (major nerd merit badge if you do find out what a "spark" is).
Google+ had 1.7 million users one week after its launch on June 28th.
Source: paulallen.net, Paul Allen is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Ancestry.com
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Robert Brault, freelance writer.
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