By Allison Rice, Amsterdam Printing
When Google+ first arrived on the social media scene in mid-2011, it didn't make much of a splash. In fact, Google made it a point of not making a big deal about its release. It was, as Google execs put it, simply an extension of Google, hence the "plus." But as users began exploring Google+ functions, they quickly realized that Google+ isn't just a compilation of a few new search features -- it's a serious and well-structured force in the social media world.
Google+ stands out from other social sites such as Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook for one big reason: Google search. Even before Google+ launched, Google was already personalizing search results based on past searches, language and geographical location. With the arrival of Google+, however, Google results began showing public Google+ posts and photos as well as Web listings based on your Google+ social connections and, perhaps most significantly, limited Google+ posts and photos that have been shared with you in the past.
For example, if you're searching the word "turtle" and a friend of yours shared a picture with you of their pet box turtle eating a strawberry six months ago, or a post about turtle diets, that information would probably show up on your first page of search results. Additionally, you have the option of seeing only personal results under "search tools" and anything your friends might have posted or shared on Google+, or around the Web, regarding turtles will appear.
Facebook pages also appear, but Google+ pages seem to have the dominant place. In fact, if your Google search has something to do with a known brand that's using Google+, such as Toyota, their Google+ page as well as a map of their locations closest to you will appear in the right hand search results column.
It's been a slow but steady integration with adjustments seeming to take place almost daily. In fact, Google+ is now considered the second most popular social network in the world with 343 million active users. Though this still trails far behind Facebook's 700 million active users, it's a number that many never thought Google+ would hit. It seems that this gradual integration process has worked by driving people to sign up for a Google+ account to access services such as Gmail and YouTube and then keeping them there with an ever-evolving array of useful apps.
There's no war between Google+ and Facebook; at least, that's the official story. On the other hand, it seems that the two are running neck and neck to see who has the most innovative, sleekest and useful toys. The recent reformatting of Facebook alone is a testament to their unspoken battle. In March 2013, Facebook launched their new look which seems to eerily reflect the clean look and extra white space formatting of Google+. The overall structure of Facebook remains true to its original design, but on first glance, a few points of similarity seem to stand out:
• The space for posts has opened up with extra white space and larger images, as well as more prominent profile pictures, similar to Google+ formatting.
• The inclusion of icons in the side menu
• Filtering of your news feed according to relationships and interests (similar to Google+'s Circles)
Regardless of how closely they might resemble each other on the surface, both social media sites seem to know what appeals to the audience-at-large and both are fighting to stay on the cutting edge. With Google+ constantly adjusting their efforts to reach more people, what does this mean for businesses striving to stand out in their social media efforts?
Things move quickly with social media and even though it's been a quiet start for Google+, its voice is being heard in all corners of the Web. With the world's number one search engine an integral part of its operation, having a Google+ page is not only important for small businesses, it's almost necessary. Why?
• Google+ pages have a priority in Google searches and brands can appear in the coveted right hand white space of search results.
• Google+ users, and those simply using Google search, will see Google+ businesses near them listed in personalized search results.
• Apps within Google+ are making it easier and easier for businesses to track not only the reach of their social networking but the impact, down to identifying specific followers who inspire more people to visit their business pages.
• Shared posts with keywords relevant to your business are more likely to appear in your friends and followers' search results.
• Circles allows you to sort clientele from friends, acquaintances and family from the start and posts can be targeted to individual groups.
• Having a Google+ page improves your personal website optimization simply by building up internal links, such as with blog posts.
The list goes on, and so do the possibilities of Google+'s impact on social marketing. Currently more than three-quarters of the top 100 global brands have active Google+ pages and they have seen an amazing amount of growth in the past year with more than 23 million listed followers. Not only are their websites appearing in search results with the addition of a visual icon and right hand posting, but the companies are also able to communicate more easily with their followers; a major plus in the social media world. If these major corporations have found value in the Google+ service, rest assured that there are advantages for any size business in creating their own Google+ page.
What are some features you've enjoyed or disliked about Google+? Do you think Google+ or Facebook is better for your business' marketing efforts? What do you think the next step in social marketing will be?
Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of custom and promotional pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.