Google’s social endeavor, Google+, became the new kid on the playground in 2011. It initially adopted many features from Facebook and Twitter, mixing in its own unique functionality like Circles and Hangouts. The platform is a little different from other social networks, in that it acts as a social layer across many of Google’s own properties, including the display ad network, thus connecting millions of sites. With nearly 67% of US search engine volume, Google is still the biggest player in the search engine game. And, with Google+ posts passing link equity to other pages, building a presence here is a better idea than ever.
So how many people actually use Google+? The latest numbers from Google, posted in October of 2013, show that there are about 300 million active monthly users who upload 1.5 billion photos every week.
While exact numbers aren’t available, reports commonly estimate the site’s users as about 70% male and 30% female. CircleCount reports the US as the biggest audience, followed by India and Brazil. Perhaps most interestingly, by a large majority, those reporting a job role are students. The large majority of the remaining top are in either technology (developers, engineers, designers) or photography. The secret here is really about determining if your audience is there, and at this point, it’s a safe bet it is.
How are people using Google+?
Much of how users actually engage on the network is the same as on Twitter and Facebook. However, because circles force categorization of people, Google+ is far more easily customizable and allows a greater level of flexibility and dialed privacy. This would, in theory, allow users to enjoy the network with more people in more relevant ways. For example, you could share content specific to your professional network with people in that circle, while sharing the pictures of your kids to a more private circle, all from the same platform. Another feature that seems to be growing in popularity with users, marketers and brands alike is the Google+ Hangout. Hangouts can be public or invite-only and allow users to connect with one another with voice and video without needing to download any software. Google has also added communities, which appear to mirror Facebook’s groups, giving additional functionality and interaction opportunity to the site.
Finding success on Google+ will—at least for now—be largely dependent on your audience and whether or not they have made the jump to this network. If they haven’t, you’ll need to either find a way to relevantly target the users that are there with your content in hopes of leveraging the benefits to your advantage, or you’ll keep an eye on the network and test the waters here and there, waiting until your audience arrives to dive in.
Strategies for Success
Leverage your other channels (social and otherwise) to increase visibility to your burgeoning page. This increased visibility will help build the community there while also presenting an integrated front.
The G+ community responds well to imagery, particularly professional photography. Social is a channel that rewards authenticity, though, so mix some more “homegrown” media in with the highly-polished brand imagery.
Implement authorship and publisher: Implement publisher status for your brand and site and help your blog authors with authorship. This will help establish authority and will add a personal touch to content as Google SERPs will show author faces in results. Over time, this also allows the authors increased visibility. Use this to your advantageand let them build their voice and audience. All of these factors will increase the visibility and authority of your presence. Depending on the nuances of your content’s authorship, you’ll want to make sure your content’s properly marked up.
Use the * and _ and other operators in conjunction with paragraph spacing and post layout to call attention to your content and make it more professional and appealing to your audience. And don’t forget to tag relevant people using “+” and their name.
It is easy to find key influencers on G+. It’s still a smallish community where it may be easier to get the attention of and build relationships with influencers in your space. Tread lightly though; don’t spam and always be respectful.
Etiquette tips and guidelines
Add value: Create good stuff. While trite, it is true. Giving people something to get excited about and a reason to want to follow you is the best way to grow your community. Google+ allows you to target who gets to see your content if you wish, so use that tool to your advantage and get creative. Can you create a special circle just for your top influencers and advocates? You betcha! The sky’s the limit!
Engage: If you’re putting out quality content and giving people a reason and opportunity to engage with you, you must be there to back-up that conversation. Be there to get involved, address questions, and add to the conversation.
Respond: If a follower takes the time out of their day to ask a question, come to you for help, or even just share something with your brand, it is simply the right thing to do to engage and respond to them. Don’t ever leave them hanging. The only thing worse than not being present in a conversation is being around and ignoring half of it.
Frequency and scheduling: As with other platforms, timing is important with your posts on Google+. It’s a little easier here because of the built-in filtering that circles offer, but like other networks, you’ll need to figure out the optimal times and frequency for posting to your Google+ page. Currently, there is no way to pre-scheduled posts in Google+, except through a Chrome extension called Do Share or third-party tools such as Sprout Social or Buffer. Do beware, though, that not all third-party tools allow for formatting.
Don’t spam: Google+ is no different with regard to spam. There are even unique ways to bother people on Google+. For example, when “events” were introduced, there were waves of complaints coming from users who had felt as though they had been spammed by those trying out the feature. Users can share a post directly with groups of people sending them specific notifications of that post, or even via email, as opposed to simply showing up in their feed, a feature susceptible to spam. The “communities” feature attracts shameless spammers, too. These features must be used very thoughtfully to avoid annoying your audience. As with all social networks, Google+ will surely adapt to prevent some of these issues over time. In the meantime, avoid exploiting them for the sake of reach. You will be sacrificing authority and the respect of your community.
+Name: If you want to call out another Google+ page or person, you can directly link to their Google+ page (which notifies them that you’re talking about them) by putting a + and then typing their name. (Google+ will help you with a drop-down.) This is similar to the @ symbol in Twitter, and helps make whom you’re addressing clear to everyone. Definitely try to include author names when you post blogs, so they can engage with commenters too.
Notifications: As a page manager, you’ll see the infamous Google+ notification bell on the righthand side of your screen. This will show you all of mentions of your brand on Google+, shared posts, new circlers, or community invites. To keep track of which ones you’ve already paid attention to and engaged with, you can x them out on by hovering on the right side of the individual notification box.