By Keredy Andrews, Senior Account Manager, Punch Communications

There’s little doubt that Google+ has had a phenomenal start. Whilst there are some reports which claim that usage is not as high as other networks, the general consensus amongst the digerati seems to be that it is here to stay.

Arguably, the service’s success is predicated on the fact that it draws upon proven functionality, effectively creating a seamless and well thought out patchwork quilt of a social site, paying homage to Instagram, Skype, Delicious, Twitter, Facebook, What’s App en-route and, critically, creating a user friendly means of segmenting content, in Circles.

Since brands were finally invited to start using the service a few weeks ago, there has been a rush to join, not for the usual landgrab of URLs, as vanity URLs are not yet in place, but to be perceived as a leader in the space and to take advantage of the enthusiasm that remains amongst those that are early adopters of the site.

In 2012, this trend looks set to continue. Here are some of the reasons why it makes good sense to get onboard, as early as possible:

Circles — As above, Circles really achieve what other sites have attempted — and even offer as functionality in some cases but which mass market users have never really adopted — which is that users can be grouped. This has a huge benefit for the user — for example, dividing content between personal and professional interests. Moreover, the circles can be as detailed or as broad as the user wishes. From a brand perspective, this is an incredible opportunity. User segmentation is the key to conversion — the more specific a message can be tailored to a specific group, the more likely that group is likely to respond. This alone represents a huge reason to get involved with Google+.

50m and Counting — Whilst this number is quite a few weeks out of date, the service hit critical mass very swiftly, albeit with a heavy bias toward north America and the west coast specifically. However, since the service apparently sailed past 20m users in the first few weeks of beta launch, it has since been reported to have hit at least 50m. Whether users will continue to run several profiles (ie a Google+ profile alongside Facebook, for example) is surely down to what their friends do, so this remains something of a threat to G+. However, based on current trends, the site looks to continue on an upward growth curve.

The Benefits of Search — Although yet to be formally incorporated into Google’s search algorithm, the SEO industry remains firmly convinced that Google+ will play a key role in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) of the near future. Effectively, the larger and more active a brand’s G+ community is, the more prominently the brand may be displayed within SERPs for relevant terms. Given the commercial implication of a strong SEO profile, this is another potentially enormous benefit which can potentially dramatically affect any brand’s bottom line.

Multi-User Admins Are Coming — Although at present, brand pages can only be run from a single user profile, this was something that has been publicly addressed by the G+ team and functionality is apparently imminent to enable multiple users to manage a brand profile. Effectively this will make the ongoing management of a brand’s profile far more practical than through a single user system.

Hangouts Facilitate Alternative Types of Engagement — With Hangouts being used in ever-more innovative ways, brands are developing strategies for taking the types of user-showcasing activities, such as the ‘Fan of the Week’ concept which proliferates Facebook, a step further and to actually engage in multi person web chats. These are then potentially to be broadcast using the ‘Hangouts On Air’ feature via YouTube. This feature looks ripe for innovation amongst brands during the early part of 2012.

Whilst it’s certainly true that the site has yet to settle down — which is, in one sense, the joy of being an early adopter of such a service — the above are just five reasons why it’s worth a good look to see how, not whether, Google+ can be part of your social media activities in 2012.

Keredy Andrews is a Senior Account Manager at integrated PR, SEO and social media agency, Punch Communications (www.punchcomms.com) and also has a wide range of events coordination experience. Her work in the public and private sectors has included media relations and campaign management as well as being responsible for internal communications and web content. Her undergraduate degree focused on Literature and in 2009 she completed a Masters degree in Writing and New Media. In her spare time, Keredy enjoys reading, cooking, growing herbs, fruit and vegetables on her allotment and walking.

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