Unless you’ve avoided the Internet over the past two weeks, you’ve probably heard about Google’s big play into the social web. It’s called Google+, and it’s been labeled the search giant’s Facebook contender.
That’s a modest assessment. Make no mistake. Google+ is aiming at Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter users. They want a piece of everyone’s pie.
Whether they succeed in doing so is open to debate But with the amount of activity and hoopla going on around Google+, it’s safe to assume it will be around for a bit. With that in mind, you’re probably wondering what value it can bring to your business. Below we offer some thoughts, recommendations and resources to help answer that question.
How Is It Different?
At its core Google+ is a social media platform, much like Facebook. What’s different is how Google is attempting to leverage its dominance in search as it approaches social.
The user experience is clean and crisp. It also provides greater segmentation to users. By dragging and dropping other users into Circles, you can self-select who can access the content you post. For instance, I have an Old Colleagues circle and an Eloqua circle. I can tailor any post only to be seen by past co-workers or my current colleagues.
Another feature is Sparks, which helps you discover news articles you might want to share based on your interests. I’ve been playing around on Google+ for the past two weeks and I see a lot of positive comments on this feature. It’s another way Google is taking full advantage of its search and personalization functionality to drive social sharing.
How Do I Get On?
[UPDATE: There are reports that Google+ has opened up to anyone with a Google account, such as GMail, this morning. I have tested with a few friends who couldn't get on earlier, and they are reporting that they were able to access it. Go to https://plus.google.com/ and sign up.]
The social web is currently divided into two portions right now: those on Google+ and everyone else. Right now, even if you have an invitation, it’s tough to get on. Google is saying it received “insane” demand in the first couple of days and has turned off the spigot as it tries to perfect the system.
For now, the best you can do right now is sign up to be notified when Google open the doors.
How Do I Create a Brand Page?
You don’t. Not yet.
Google didn’t immediately unveil brand pages for businesses and marketers. Some brands, like Ford and The Next Web, jumped into the fray in the first few days and just created personal profiles for their brands. But this week Google+ Product Manager, Christian Oestlien, took to YouTube to announce that Google was developing brand pages to be rolled out “later in the year” and that brand profiles would be removed from the system.
Already, some brands, like ABC News Radio, are taking down their profiles.
One of the pluses of, er, Google+ for brands is that Oestlien said the pages would feature “rich analytics” and the ability to connect to AdWords. So it looks like Google+ might provide a greater level of insight into how brand advocates are interacting with organizations on the infant social network.
Rise of the +1 Button
We wrote last week about how Google’s +1 button had a lot of catching up to do with to match the popularity of the Facebook “Like” button. While the +1 button shows up in Google search results, it didn’t have a social platform to support it. (Imagine pushing the Facebook “Like” button if there were no Facebook.)
That issue is solved with the launch of Google+. Not only does pushing the +1 button show your endorsement in search results, it also stores them like bookmarks on your Google+ profile. It’s not exactly clear what weight Google will give to +1s when compiling search rankings, but it’s likely to be an important SEO factor.
Your brand, or even you, might not be able to jump on Google+ yet, but you can get a head start by embedding the +1 button on your websites and blogs.
There’s been plenty of digital ink shed on the topic of Google+. I tried to sort through much of it and deliver the stuff that is most relevant to brands and helpful.
How To Get Started – The Social Media Examiner gives a detailed breakdown of how to use Google+.
Google+ and the Enterprise – MyCustomer.com’s in-depth review of how Google+ might be used by businesses.
A 5-Point Framework For Organizing Your Circles – Nate Riggs shows how to make the most of your circles.
Listening With Sparks – Another Nate Riggs gem, this time on how to turn Sparks into a social media listening post.
How To Add +1 Button To WordPress – A Mashable guide.
How To Add +1 Button to Blogger – A guide from Blogger.
The Google+ 100 – A list of the most followed people on Google+.
Google+ Answers On Twitter – The new Twitter stream for Google+ Answers community.
50 Random Thoughts On Google+ — Chris Brogan writes up 50 random thoughts on the new social platform.