+Me: Is Google Plus Essential for Business?
A million and one posts on the topic of Google+ will start with telling you that it’s the fastest growing social media platform, that a Google+ page massively affects your business presence online and that having one is absolutely essential.
Not this post. In fact, Google Plus leaves me a little cold. It’s not particularly social, not particularly easy to use and can be a real pain for making you log in and out of different Google accounts.
Nevertheless I can’t dispel all those claims made by others. Let’s take a closer look…
Fastest growing social network?
Apparently so. Google’s own figures state user numbers of more than 500 million. That’s almost as much as Facebook’s 700 million+ active users and does make it the second biggest social network.
But I have lots of Google accounts for using things like YouTube, Google Analytics (pretty much a different account for every client) and Google Adwords. Many of those now have Google+ accounts attached to them because of careless clicks.
Indeed, Google puts the number of users actively posting to Google+ at 135 million which is far behind Twitter’s 288 million active users.
Affects your business’s online presence?
That all depends on what your business is and how you use online marketing.
If you’re a local business Google+ isn’t going to do much more for you than you already get out of Google Places for Business – a pin on Google maps and the chance to show up in map search results.
If you’re a consumer oriented business then Facebook and Twitter are proven territory while Pinterest can be used to promote your stylish products or delicious looking food.
For business to business companies Twitter and LinkedIn are the only big shows in town. Twitter for promoting content and managing your reputation and LinkedIn for building your influence with groups and selling your services using the new paid advertising model.
But there are certain things that Google+ can do for your business that those other networks can’t, much of which is down to how it affects your appearance in other Google products.
Google’s superior product has always been its search engine which most estimates say gobbles up 90% of the UK search market. How your company or brand is recognised and represented in Google search results is therefore of huge importance.
Google’s search engine has been steadily moving away from a text based engine to a more semantic model for many years. It has started recognising different entities like brands and how they’re related. The Google Knowledge Graph is a recent development in this direction and works the same for brands as it does for famous artists or rock bands.
Obviously being included in the Knowledge Graph can only be a boon and having an active brand Google+ page – along with a Wikipedia page – seems like the best way of getting there.
Author Recognition and Rich Snippets
Rich snippets are extra pieces information that Google includes in search results which are relevant to the users’ query e.g. review scores, event listings or prices.
One type of rich snippet that is much more apparent than others is the authorship rich snippet where a profile pic of the author is displayed next to a blog post or article’s search listing.
This pic is taken from the author’s Google+ page if they’ve added the website to the list of sites to which they contribute in Google+ (instructions on how to set up authorship are provided by Google).
This kind of presentation can hugely increase the click-through rate for a brand’s search listings and doesn’t even require that the brand has its own Google+ page.
You do need to press gang your authors into setting it up though – fine if they’re employees but not so easy when they’re freelancers (though you could obviously publish commissioned content under an employee’s name).
Businesses for whom social media is their bread and butter certainly can’t afford to ignore Google+ and it’s certainly the digital community who have been the early adopters of the new platform.
For everyone else though?
As the usership of the platform increases due to greater integration of Google products and as that greater integration leads to extra benefits in terms of data and tracking the case for investing more in Google+ will get stronger.
For now though I’d recommend aiming for the low-hanging fruit – yes set up a nice looking brand page and share some content, yes get your authors recognised by Google’s search engine. Beyond that, for most brands, time spent on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn will prove much more cost effective.