As a marketer who works on behalf of a variety of brands, I am both scared and very intrigued by the introduction of Google Plus.
GOOGLE PLUS & SEARCH
The potential that Google Plus has, if it truly uses the power already built by Google, is tremendous, and brands may not have the luxury to wait around and decide to get involved. And not just because of its potential as a social media tool that can unseat Facebook, but because of its potential to impact search engine rankings in unexpected ways.
Imagine for a moment that you work for Brand X who has a solid presence on Facebook, a decent following on Twitter, but their strongest asset has been their optimization strategy for search engines. This strategy has resulted in Brand X being the top brand for heavy utilized keywords and has helped increase the traffic ten times over in the past year. Brand X feels like they have a good thing going, and when you ask to get involved in Google Plus, they tell you not to bother. You then notice your rankings start to drop and you are being pushed out of the top pages by your competitors. Upon further research, you discover that Company Y decided to get involved in Plus and Google announces that activity in the social network is now factored into their search engine results algorithm. Company Y jumps ahead because they decided to use Plus and now you have to try to get Brand X involved just to stay competitive.
This is a very scary scenario but one that I could see playing out if Google wanted it to. Brands would almost be forced to get involved or risk losing everything their SEO initiatives achieved. Right now, however, there is no way for brands to get involved as it is only open to individual users, but according to Google, brand pages will be available by the end of the year and they are already starting to accept applications for a special beta test.
GOOGLE PLUS & SOCIAL MARKETING
No one knows exactly what Google Plus brand pages will look like or the functionality that they will have. When the product finally rolls out, it could be a big shock and something we have never seen before, or it could be something very similar to the way a Facebook page looks now.
One of the very intriguing things from a marketing perspective would be the targeting capabilities of messaging using the fundamental building block of Plus called Circles. Google said they found one of the major problems with the social landscape today is that one thing is shared with everyone instead of being able to pick and choose. “Not all relationships are created equal,” says the Official Google Blog. “So in life we share one thing with college buddies, another with parents, and almost nothing with our boss. The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in “friend” paper—and sharing really suffers.” Circles solves this problem by bringing the activity of only sharing certain information with certain people to software.
As a marketer, being able to pick and choose certain subsets of consumers to target a specific message is something that is lacking in the current options, but is a feature with a lot of potential. While Facebook does allow you to target through their ad platform, you cannot target updates or status messages to a specific group. Imagine if you could send coupon and discount messages for kids clothing only to your consumers who you knew had kids. This would avoid a lot of irrelevant messages going to your community and would allow a complete personalization of content.
Still, Facebook has a mechanism available to businesses to help them increase awareness and make their presence known through the use of Facebook ads. Although Google Plus has a lot of potential in this area by connecting with their Ad Words program, the two are currently separate.
Over the next several months, as Google fine tunes the program through feedback and starts to drop hints about the business pages, a clearer picture will certainly emerge on the power that Plus has. If you are a brand though, be ready, because this might be one network you can’t afford to be left behind on.
If you were lucky enough to receive an invitation to Google Plus and have had a chance to try it out and experiment with it, we would love to know your thoughts in the comment field!