Which Social Media Platform is Right for Your Organization – A Beginner’s Guide to Google+

17 Oct Which Social Media Platform is Right for Your Organization – A Beginner’s Guide to Google+

My quest to break down the top social media platforms continues this month with Google+. In case you missed any of my past posts, I’ve already taken a look at LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Now, let’s focus on Google+. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride.

The basics: Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook. Per Wikipedia, “Google has described Google+ as a ‘social layer’ that enhances many of its online properties, and that it is not simply a social networking website, but also an authorship tool that associates web-content directly with its owner/author.”

Demographics: According to this blog post from Jeff Bullas, getting exact user demographic data from Google+ is nearly impossible, yet he still managed to pull the following numbers together:

 

  • There are now over 1 billion users with Google+ enabled accounts
  • It has reached 359 million monthly active users
  • Google+ is growing at 33% per annum.
  • The 45 to 54 year old bracket increased its usage on Google+ by 56% since 2012

While Google may not release their numbers, globalwebindex recently completed a survey of more than 42,000 adults aged 16-64 in 32 countries and compiled this infographic of the results:

google-plus-users-2014-infographic-resized-600

One thing to watch out for with Google+ is that since it is basically now built into all of Google’s properties, the 540 million monthly active user number could be inflated. So what constitutes a Google property? Per this Marketing Landarticle from Oct. 2013, it “could include leaving a comment on a blog or website that has Google+ comments embedded, commenting on YouTube, or clicking the +1 button on an article or some other web content.”

Access: As with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, Google+ can be accessed either via a mobile app or directly through your web browser. While this data is a bit old, per engadget, in June 2012 Google+ was touting that it had more mobile users than desktop. However, according to this Digital Trends article from November 2013, Google+ user numbers tell an incomplete story. Remember that caveat above about Google’s numbers being a bit inflated because they take in to account all the different properties that Google owns and operates? The same is true for calculating the number of people who access Google+ on a mobile device.

How it’s being used: In theory Google+ is being used in a similar manner to Facebook. Its users (whether individuals or enterprise) are using the service to share status updates, news, and photos.

One differentiator between Google+ and other platforms, namely Facebook, is the use of Circles. Circles allow users to organize people into groups or lists for sharing information. And, unlike on Facebook, you don’t have to be “friends” with someone to add them to a Circle. I’d say that Google+ Circles are where Twitter followers and Facebook lists intersect. An added benefit of Circles over Facebook lists is that once you’ve added someone to a Circle you can participate in Hangouts with that person. Google+ users can create Circles of other users based on vertical, industry, content, etc.

Like Facebook, Google+ users are able to interact directly with any brand or company that has a page on the platform. Also like Facebook, this access is a double-edged sword. While it can be great if managed properly, it can also be disastrous in the event that someone has a complaint they want to share and ends up feeling it is not being handled properly.

Where Google+ really trumps the competition is that it is “such an inherent part of the Google algorithm,” meaning that content that gets posted there gets indexed by Google much quicker than content from other social networks. In fact, due to the privacy restrictions on other social networks it’s entirely possible that what you post there will never get indexed – meaning it will never show up in a Google search.

Analytics: From what I can see, Google+ analytics are somewhat lacking. On a basic level you can see who is following you and who has +1’d your posts. Another measurement is to see who has added you to Circles as users can only see your posts after they’ve added you to a Circle. Truthfully, I don’t have much access to what other kind of analytics information is available in Google+ for companies, but this post from Jeffalytics has a good breakdown of how to measure activity within Google+.

Pros: Due to its integration with the rest of Google’s properties, creating and maintaining a Google+ account can be beneficial for your business – allowing the content you post there to be rapidly indexed and easily found when someone searches for your company (assuming they are using Google Search). This is actually a really big pro for Google+ and one of the main reasons I would advocate for why you need to use it. Additionally, Google+ Hangouts are a free alternative to hosting a webinar and make it possible to connect with up to 10 others on an active video stream.

Cons: Despite its own reports that it’s thriving, actual user numbers haven’t been updated in almost a year and even when numbers are provided, many question how accurate they really are since practically every person who uses Gmail could be considered part of the Google+ Stream. There has also been a lot of chatter about Google doing away with Google+ since Vic Gundotra, the founding father of the social channel, left the company earlier this year.

Final thoughts: I think like all social networks you have to take the good with the bad. In the case of Google+ the good is the rapid indexing of posts while the bad is that it’s not nearly as thriving as other platforms. Personally, I have an account and Google does force all of the photos I upload into their cloud over to the Google+ platform, but I don’t think I personally know anyone who is actively using the service. However, despite my lack of enthusiasm for the platform, I do believe that if your company maintains a Facebook page it should also maintain a Google+ account, if for no other reason than its ability to integrate easily into Google’s portfolio of properties and into Google Search. If you’re actively posting comments and content to Facebook it will only take an additional few minutes to post the same content to Google+ and what you may lack in active engagement you will likely make up for with the indexing that Google provides.

Jennifer Edgerly
jedgerly@speakerboxpr.com
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