Merchants tend to put the majority of their social resources into sites like Facebook or Twitter, but it might be time to shift some of that social focus to Google+.
This is because having a profile on Google's emerging social network makes a brand more visible in the search results. In fact, a study from digital marketing and analytics provider Fathom reveals that only 24 percent of the brands on Millward Brown's 2012 BrandZ list actually triggered a Knowledge Graph entry when searched for on Google, and the information for 92 percent of those entries came directly from Google+.
Furthermore, Google+ has been gaining momentum with the public and now has 135 million active users according to a recent blog post from the company. This influx of users could be the result of Google+'s interactive features and tools that make it easier for brands to connect with people across the Web, such as the new Google+ Communities.
What is Google+ Communities?
Google+ Communities allow Google+ users to create social groups based on specific topics or interests, such as sports, photography or fashion. The Communities can be customized to be public or private, which means that users can create Communities that span across broad categories like cooking to narrow topics like local neighborhoods.
Although some might compare Google+ Communities to Facebook Groups, Google's platform actually appears to have the advantage. This is because Community members can connect with each other by launching or participating in Hangout video chats or by scheduling Community events. Moreover, members have the ability to share content directly with Communities via the +1 button.
Who should leverage Communities?
While any type of Web worker can create a Community, merchants might be the biggest beneficiaries of this new feature. Chances are that the content from Google+ Communities may eventually make its way to the search results, especially since Google has been working hard to interconnect all of its services and Google+ already has a big impact on the SERPs. Additionally, fostering a community around a brand can help merchants establish authority in their niche, build better relationships with customers and acquire more brand advocates.
For example, a pet store retailer can create a Community for local pet owners. Within this Community, members will be able to upload images of their kittens, schedule puppy play dates or participate in a Hangout video-chat for puppy training tips. Conversely, a clothing retailer's Community might include consumer-generated photos and videos that feature customers' favorite outfits, event information for the brand's next fashion show or a fashionista Hangout for members to discuss hot up-and-coming trends.
It is also important to note that even though Google+ Communities officially launched last week, only a handful of brands have taken advantage of this feature. This means that merchants can stay a step ahead of their competition by leveraging this Google+ feature. But before you create your first Community, take some time to get inspired by the examples below:
This automobile Community already has more than 3,000 members and features six different types of discussions. So far members have leveraged this group to post pictures of their cars and ask questions to other Audi owners.
The Call of Duty Community has more than 1,200 members and features three different types of discussions. It is a good place for gamers to connect with each other away from the television screen, as well as ask questions about the game or give out tips for success.
The Knitting Lodge Community was launched by Yarn Mountain as a place where crafters can connect with people who have similar interests. The Community features 13 different discussion topics, and an event was already launched for Community members.
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