06/09/11

By Keredy Andrews

In many business circles, excuse the pun, people are waiting for the announcement from Google about when they will be able to create a brand profile on its recently launched social network, + (plus). The expectation is that it’s not just another profile to look after, it is likely to have benefits when it comes to organic search as well as social search with the +1 button.

Google+ received thousands of applications within just a few days when it asked for companies to apply for business test pages. Ford Motor Company is perhaps the largest brand to be lucky enough to take advantage of this and is reported of doing a great job of working with Google to try out the functions in +. Particularly, they have been engaging with their followers (at the time of writing, the number is 12,843) through posting videos and organising hangout sessions with their followers, fans or should the term ‘circlers’ start to be used?

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can provide most of the function we find in Google+ but apart from the power of the Google brand, and its stranglehold on the search market, the difference is that its foundations are based on being able to circle those who have circled you; this makes it perfect to tailor messaging through posts to particular circles, which is where the real distinction in functionality lies. Facebook fan pages do not have a grouping function which is one of the reasons I believe the network predominantly still is a personal platform. Twitter has the edge for business use but unless your whole profile is protected, which would be pointless for business use, anyone can see your tweets.

Interestingly, the Google+ culture has already began to form, as it seems sharing links, to videos or articles, is the order of the day, rather than streams being full of ‘chatter’. Or could it be that chatter is going on within more intimate circles, as perhaps Google+ foresaw? This strikes me as a platform built for the age of social media where its users now understand the importance of being allowed to be multi-faceted, just like they are with people in the real world. Google+ use will almost certainly evolve somehow as the early adopter period phases out but having undertaken a study and written an essay on identity in Facebook for my Masters’ degree and I now work in PR, SEO and social media I’m looking forward to thinking about the different faces of a business.

Here are a few more thoughts about the opportunities Google+ could bring for businesses.

+1 button

If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend you add the +1 button to your website and its content, alongside the open graph ‘like’ function; ensure you encourage everyone to hit those +1s through whatever communications channels are open to you. Who knows when +1 will become a weighty element in Google’s search algorithm.

On top of this, integrated social search is coming. If you’re signed into Google, you are almost certainly going to be able to base your search results on those that are +1’d by those in your circles, or by everyone in the world. Trust based endorsement could easily bring new customers or clients your way.

If you provide content to other sites, watch out for a +1 ‘Author Rank’ becoming prevalent in search in the not too distant future, meaning individuals could become outstanding brand ambassadors.

Linking

I have just looked at my Google+ stream and every one of the 21 posts include a share link to either a photo, a video or a link to a web page. As I said, this is setting the tone for the platform so do you have good content to link to on your site or other platforms?

You can connect to Picasa where you could upload product photos and to YouTube for videos.

Don’t forget, with the potential for Google+ to be integrated in the search algorithm, if others want to share your posts, each link back to your website could assist in pushing you up the Google rankings.

Circles

The name is quite clever when you think about the connotations — we all often like to think we are included in an inner circle as it makes us feel special, considered and important. Businesses paying special attention early on to circling opportunities could be very specific and personalised in their messaging, whether to suppliers, customers or other segmentations, such as geographically.

We don’t know how business pages will exactly function over the next year or so but reciprocal circling may not be looked down upon as following is in Twitter, so posts can be seen by type of circler.

I predict competitions will be common, as they are elsewhere in social media, to attract business pages to be circled by fans but I expect social media agencies and in house teams everywhere will be already strategizing. When business pages launch there will be content experiments with how audiences engage as brands fight it out to create best practice. Google+ will require a different approach from Facebook and Twitter but acquisition numbers will be one area to watch.

Hangouts

Whether a competition prize or a regular activity, hangouts provide true two way social media engagement. Giving people special access in real time, for example, to the designer of the latest product, an expert in a service, advice and information, or a celebrity is an attractive offering. I envisage this could be a very powerful tool when it comes to customer services, meeting the needs of clients or customers anywhere in the world as well as building brand personality.

Huddles

Only currently available through the Android mobile phone app, Huddle enables you to send a text (SMS) message to individuals or circles. The potential for reaching customers in a method they prefer has just got even larger.

About The Author

Keredy is a Senior Account Manager at integrated PR, SEO and social media agency, Punch Communications 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.