In its first two weeks as a social network, Google+ is gaining steam. The new social network is reportedly going to hit 20 million users by this weekend, and Google’s Larry Page said 1 billion pieces of content are being shared daily. Companies are eager to see what this means for their social media programs. Although we know very little about what an official corporate profile or program looks like at this point, Google has said it is planning solutions for companies. As early adopter companies like MTV and Ford rolled out Google+ presences, Christian Oestlien posted a quick video about Google’s take on corporate accounts. The message: Right now Google+ is for users only, but Google will be rolling out a solution for companies testing the service in the next several weeks. Google’s test program for businesses has already received thousands of applications, Oestlien said, and Google will make selections next week. (Companies have until Friday, July 15 at 6 p.m. PST to sign up.)
What Google+ might look like for marketers is a currently a mystery, but the possibilities are promising. Facebook Pages have been highly influential for marketing and customer service programs, pushing them into building creative social campaigns and developing whole teams and processes for responding to customers faster than ever. The corporate presence on Google+ – if growth and usage of the initial user base continues – could incorporate equally revolutionary features that mean big things for marketers and community managers.
Google+ Features as a Tool for Targeting and Engagement
In addition to the opportunities for Google to utilize its existing properties (YouTube, Gmail, etc.), the current Google+ features offer potential ways to create dialog, in particular Hangouts and Circles. Hangouts, Google+ group video chat (and the chief rival of Facebook’s recently announced video chat through Skype), means real-time, face-to-face chats with brand reps, customer service pros, and even in-house experts. Group Hangouts based on a particular post, where commenters jump into a chat with a brand representative, could mean significant conversations about a topic a company began. Just as the Facebook Wall prompted fear of two-way dialog that quickly subsided once the right tools and processes were in place, this scenario could make marketers nervous, but could also be a positive shift in brand/consumer conversation.
Circles is another feature that could be leveraged to drive interaction with users. Today Google+ users can segment their friends into Circles, only sharing relevant content with specific groups. Think Facebook post geotargeting, only with fully customized segmentation. For example, for a sporting goods retailer, the interests of its customer base varies. A Google+ corporate profile Circles solution could mean content can be sent through the network to only boaters, while other content is shared with hikers. Relevancy is a key component of effective content. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithms attempt to build in this relevancy for users so their newsfeeds aren’t bombarded with content they’re uninterested in, but Circles could make it possible to segment social media in a way similar to email marketing, but within the confines of an interactive social network. (For users, being able to build Circles of brands they follow could have an impact.)
Features that haven’t gotten as much buzz as these two, such as Sparks and the new Google Photos (formerly Picasa), will undoubtedly play a role for corporate accounts.
Google+ Plus Google’s Existing Capabilities Could Equal an Unstoppable Force
The topic of content flows into a discussion of the Google powerhouse factor and how integration could pay off big for marketers. Google’s Oestlien said “… ultimately, we want to use Google+ across every Google property. How or when is all to be determined.” This could mean incredible things for marketers looking to capitalize on Google+ in terms of content sharing, analytics, and advertising.
Google’s +1 button is the driver of Google content sharing. For corporate content, this not only functions similarly to the Facebook Like button, but also creates more opportunity for search results themselves to be shared socially on Google+ profiles, with +1 buttons highlighted on Google search result pages. The integration of YouTube could mean important things for video content and seamless sharing as well. In terms of advertising and analytics: With Facebook U.S. display ad net revenue to hit $2.2 billion in 2011 and Google coming in third this year behind Facebook and Yahoo!, the advertising race is equally as active between the two companies. For marketers, Google+ could mean complete integration with the leading pay-per-click platform and Google’s vast display network. This integration will also mean that tracking users through search, websites, and social is now within reach. This could be a giant leap for social media ROI tracking, which is a task many companies continue to struggle with. On Search Engine Journal Glenn Gabe offered a great take on all the potential ways this advertising integration could take shape, from how remarketing can utilize data from Google+ to how Google can offer personalized (relevant) search results based on user social activity in Google+.
We won’t know what the official corporate marketing solution for brands will be until it is released, but the possibilities for marketers are exciting. But whether it is influential for marketers hinges on whether the adoption rate for Google + will rival Facebook in the long term. (Today on Mashable Ben Parr offered a great look at early adoption and what it could mean for Google+.) If user growth stagnates, this is a potential showstopper for the new social network. Where the consumers are active, brands will go. And if users do flock to Google+, the question becomes: What functionality will they have to interact with those consumers once they get there?