Google+ : brands should be on, people should not be lazy.
Ok, I’m going to say it, for 100 days Google+ is not doing badly. Not badly at all. +40 million users who are sharing high-growth and high engagement content (photos, videos etc) at a decent rate. Yet, as we’ve seen with other launches of sites we have some critical pieces starting to emerge and rightly so, Google+ is not perfect… it is also not Facebook.
I’m seeing two main themes emerging: 1) the current Google+ business solution is not usable and 2) when they go on Google+ they don’t get any value from it or “no-one is on it so I don’t use it” verbiage. One word sums up both these things. Laziness.
Don’t get me wrong – Google isn’t out to make our lives as marketers more difficult (why would they?), but nor do they want brands on there shilling their products as freely as is possible on other platforms – we’ve become far too good at it. They want to make something unique and make sure the ecosystem they are creating can handle what brands are going to chuck at it. One thing I will say is it’s a brave person that recommends a brand doesn’t have a (free) profile on a platform so intricately connected to a product that three out of four people (UK figures from Hitwise) use to start their internet journeys. We have to remember when Facebook brand pages started out there was little in the way of the functionality we see today. Isn’t search, analytics and a free platform to potentially get to an existing community of +40 million people rich in early adopters (and influencers) enough? Have they said these things won’t be available? Completely the opposite in fact – give it time! Short-term efficiency can sometimes be the worst thing in social media for long-term success – know thy early adopter…
The second point is one that is as old as Google+ is young. The ‘I don’t see my friends/value immediately so I’m off’ users. You have no-one to blame but yourselves! Lazy, lazy, lazy! There are two things most people fail to realise in this situation : adoption curves and the Google product array. Put simply, Google+ was always going to be tech/nerdy place to begin with – full of oversharers or data monkeys such as myself. I used the network but I didn’t let it use me. Over time this will change and regular user patterns will emerge. It’s hard to imagine Google not turning on the Google juice to Google+ considering YouTube, Blogger, Picasa, Gmail and the myriad of other properties all have parts to play in the Google+ experience and different user bases to pull from.
Where brands and people are really falling down is the propensity to view Google+ just like Facebook when it is clearly not. In some cases, they are literally taking their strategies, and hitting ‘find and replace’ in the word strategy document. Tsk tsk. This is a huge mistake as the ecosystems are very different.
My advice to a brand? Create a Google+ business page immediately. Read the terms of service. Read the terms of service again. Decide on the business objectives (the resource it will require and if the platform can deliver on both of those to your satisfaction). Still here? Great. Now fill out the sections, pop up some photos, make sure all the links are pointing to the right places, add the Google+ badge and +1 button on all of the brands owned assets where it will add value. Now write a simple post about ‘more coming soon’ (if you can’t start posting immediately), don’t run any competitions and then breathe. Rule it, don’t let it rule you. No-one is landgrabbing vanity URLs – that’s the beauty of circles and Google+ in general. It’s about cultivating relevancy and talking to the right people in the right tone. Take your time and get it right. It will take time to do this. Personally, I like that brands can’t talk to a user before they have added the brand – that’s how people work and that makes sense long-term – any other way and you’re potentially shouting in their ear…again.
I truly believe we’re moving towards an era of really valuing engaging with 100 rather than shouting at a million – we have to be aiming for that every day. The key thing is to think long and hard about your circle strategy (more to follow on this in a separate post). It’s important because a) it’s a big part of how you will communicate with your community and b) it takes a lot of time and is not automatable right now. We have to remember that Google+ is a free tool that just launched (literally), no-one is begging you to use it if you can’t figure out workarounds until other solutions become available – let’s stop being lazy and invest some time.