The latest social network from Internet giant Google is making a grand debut. Word is that over 10 million people have rushed to the platform during its “field test” and most seem to have a very favorable first impression of the product.
So, how does the emergence of this new social media platform change the game for marketers? It’s certainly too early to say much for certain, but here are a few key points to know and consider.
1. There will be a special place for brands on G+, but it’s not ready yet.
Google+ is decidedly personal right now. There is no equivalent of a Facebook Page, but something along those lines is planned. Google asks that you wait, and they promise that it won’t be long. Some brands have jumped the gun and configured personal accounts as a brand account. It’s unclear how well that’s going over on the network, but in an environment that seems fundamentally tuned to keeping the quality of your social streams high, this may be a tricky approach. For now, you might be better off playing by the rules and setting up a personal account. This will help you get a feel for the environment, and an all-important end-user perspective.
2. There is a distinct vibe on Google+ right now.
It’ll likely change, but the combination of that new car smell and the excitement many feel from starting anew in a clean environment with a limited community give the place a definite tone. A lot of people seem energized simply by the ability to completely reboot their social media experience. A lot of people are exploring the service, testing things out – pushing and poking around, and sharing their experiences about Google+. It’s new to everyone, and that takes up a lot of the conversation right now. Some are so excited that they’ve picked up and move most (or all) of their social media activity to Google+ already. So, realize that the group seems a bit sensitive right now and is clinging to the honeymoon period pretty tightly. Aggressive tactics would likely backfire (even more than on other platforms). Of course, the tone will likely evolve as the network grows and changes (much to the chagrin of some early adopters).
3. Engagement is super-high, prepare to be a conversationalist
Conversations abound on Google+. Many posts have tons of comments. There are a lot of real conversations going on. Like blogging or Twitter in the old days. I think this has a lot to do with the unbridled enthusiasm for a new environment and the parts of the design that Google got right. It may be working better than Twitter since posts are not limited to 140 characters and conversations can be contained in a set of comments. Without a hashtag, DMs or some other effort it’s hard to have a long conversation on Twitter. It may be working better than blogs since there is no need to fill out a form to sign up to comment. It may be some secret sauce of the design that we can’t put our finger on yet, but whatever the case – engagements is high. Prepare to converse.
4. Influence may become even harder to measure
Measuring influence is always a challenge. Projects like Klout and PeerIndex have been making some inroads here, but this new platform throws a couple of monkey-wrenches into the mix. There is no API into the platform, the way the network works is different, and much of what’s going to be shared in the future could be in private circles. It’s going to be really hard, in the short term at least, to figure out any meaningful measures beyond how many circles someone is in. And even those numbers can be hidden by users if they wish.
5. Metrics largely disappear, but could come on strong later
Influence is always a challenge, but metrics are usually much easier to gather. Even when simple counts like how many circles someone is in are available, they may be misleading. Like Twitter, sharing is asymmetrical on Google+. And just because someone is in a bunch of circles doesn’t mean their posts are actually being viewed. What might get real interesting is if Google integrates Google Analytics into the service somehow in order to give users some view into what the traffic is like for individual posts, comments they make, or other activities on the platform. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were in the cards at some point, particularly for the brand pages. That could make metrics quite interesting and informative in the future.
6. Google+ is driving tons of blog traffic already
Several popular bloggers have shared that Google+ is the top referrer to their blogs, and has been pretty steadily over the last several days. Whatever drives the engagement on this platform, it apparently spills over to outside properties as well. This could make Google+ a key outpost for your company’s blog. Something to think about.
Get your feet wet
Given all of the above, the best approach right now is probably to simply jump in and learn the environment. Learn how it works. Explore the features. Figure out some people to follow and see what they are posting, and jump into some of the conversations. That’s probably a minimum requirement right now. Then, you can move onto experimenting with hangouts and huddles, photo and video sharing, and building out your profile.
Photo credit: kiwinz