Author Update 8th October 2018: Google has announced it will be shutting down Google+ due to severe data breaches. So, in effect, Google Plus IS now dead! Read about what other social media marketing opportunities you now have.
The site has certainly seen its fair share of criticism in the past. Tech media hasn’t held back either, asking is Google Plus dead and declaring outright that the network is obsolete.
The number of those who still love the service fell quickly after those heady days of the summer of 2011. Google did so many things right; the design was great (and used what were, at the time, really advanced web technologies) and its focus on privacy with the help of its Circles seemed like the right antidote to Facebook. People (like yours truly) were genuinely excited about Google+.
However, Circles turned out to be too complicated for most people (and the idea of categorising your friends always seemed strange), the fact that Google didn’t allow anonymous users quickly created a backlash and even after Google changed its policy, the sour taste of those early days remained for many.
In those early days, Google also seemed to focus more on figuring out ways to beef up Google+’s user numbers than on improving the product.
Unlike Twitter, Google also kept the service mostly closed to third-party developers because the company didn’t want to “disrupt something very special” and “magical.”
Google’s insistence on building social (and hence Google+) into all of its products, largely driven by the project’s head Vic Gundotra, was one step too far and after Gundotra’s exit in early 2014, it probably spent as many engineering hours on removing all of its Google+ integrations as it did on building them in the first place. When Google+ realised it could not steal Facebook and Twitter’s users, realising that it could be more than a social media platform. It became a discovery tool for quality content.
Unlike Google’s other social experiments, like the ill-fated Buzz, Google+ is still alive all these years later. It created some awesome products like Hangouts and Google Photos. With numerous redesigns and added features the interest and value in the social network returned.
Yet, some brands are still asking: Is Google+ relevant for businesses? Should you continue devoting time and resources to it?
The answer is yes. But before I dive into why, let’s take a quick look at the current state of Google+.
Demographics for Google+ are still hard to come by but there appears to be some great SEO potential.
Based on data pulled from a Statistic Brain report:
There is some discrepancy around how many active users are on Google Plus. Some reports claim the site has upward of 343 million, whilst more recent studies found just 9% (roughly 198 million) of Google’s 2.2 billion users actually post content on the platform.
But instead of dismissing the platform and asking is Google Plus dead, let’s not forget that you always want to think in terms of quality and not quantity when it comes to successful social media marketing. So whether there are 22 million or 343 million people posting consistently on Google+, there are still millions of opportunities to engage.
In 2015 Google began rolling out a redesigned Google+. In addition to a simpler look and feel, Communities and Collections are now at the centre of it all. According to Google, these are the two features its user base utilises the most. Google MyBusiness was also made easier, to increase your brand’s local awareness. But since Google+’s Communities and Collections are now such a big part of the Google Plus experience, let’s take a closer look at these features.
As a business using social media, one of your goals should be to create a thriving and engaged community around your product or service. With Google+ Communities, you can finally do just that.
Google+ Communities are groups created around a specific interest, organisation or passion by either an individual or a business. They’re free, and a great way to engage customers in direct conversation. Communities can be public or private, open to everyone or accessible by invite only.
Creating a Google+ Community is easy. If you’re already using the new version of Google+, click on the menu icon in the top left corner of the screen and scroll down to Communities. From there, click on the Yours tab and then click on Create a community.
If you’re still using the classic version of Google+, click on the drop-down menu at the top left corner of the screen and select Communities. Once there, click on the blue Create community button to the right of Community Invitations.
Just remember that you’re only as strong as your moderator team. Moderators keep the stream populated with interesting content and clear of spam (which like all social media communities, will also occur in Google Plus). I recommend asking someone directly involved with your business to act as a moderator, like a social media manager, but it’s also beneficial to share that title with some of your most loyal and active brand evangelists.
Sometimes creating your own community might not make the most sense for your brand, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in them. You can search for existing Communities relevant to your industry.
For example, since Blu Mint Digital work with a lot of other marketers, our team is active in several online marketing communities. Not only are we engaging around a topic we’re passionate about, but we’re exchanging ideas with our peers and customers.
You can also use Communities to inspire content. For example, Word of the Day, Joke of the Day or Thinkers could be just what you need to obtain some creativity. At the very last, it could inspire some unique content to share with your own Community.
Google+ Collections are similar to Communities in that they’re built around shared interests, but there’s a shift in who controls the published content.
This feature lets you create content collections around topics and interests, and it also lets your followers choose the type of posts they want to see from you. For example, as a regular blog writer for my own company or for clients, I use Google Collections to demonstrate my portfolio of writing skills.
Collections can be shared publicly, privately or with specific sets of users. You can also decide whether people who follow you will automatically follow one of your Collections.
When someone follows your Collection, the posts you make in that Collection will appear in their home stream. They’ll be able to +1, comment on and re-share any posts you add to your Collection.
Once clicked, the user is taken to a new stream full of posts that have been added to that Collection. You can either browse through the Collection or click on Follow to receive updates in our home stream whenever a new post is added.
From a user’s perspective, Collections allow the person to clean up their stream and fine tune it to better match their own interests. Unlike on Facebook, where you’re up against there ever-changing algorithm, Google Plus puts the user in control of what they want to see. What this means for businesses is that if someone follows your Collection, they’re opting in to seeing more of you and your content.
The two features detailed above are now the mainstay of Google+’s offerings to users and businesses. They’re very similar in nature, so let’s determine what makes them different so you’re ready to start using them:
Google Plus may have gone through a lot of changes since its launch, but it’s far from dead. The only thing that’s changed is how people are using it – remember that it is user interest that is key here. While people turn to Facebook to share everything from articles to status updates about their daily lives, content on Google Plus seems focused around a particular topic.
This creates a huge opportunity for businesses to segment audiences and share content with highly targeted groups.
Additionally, there is a plethora of ways to engage—from small actions including +1s to in-depth conversations in Communities. Everything you do on Google+ drives people back to your Google+ Page and website. If you’re skeptical about Google+, monitor your activity and re-evaluate after a couple of months.
If you need help in how to manage Google+ then why not talk to one of our team about it today.