Google+, Google's often maligned social platform, has just turned two. If you're not using it, you're making a big mistake and missing incredible tools.
Brands and social-media marketers need to pay attention to Google+ now and start developing a strategy that puts Google+ at its center. And hold on to your hat -- because that strategy will need to be significantly different than your Facebook strategy.
The bottom line: Google has made you an offer you can't refuse. If you ignore Google+, then Google search will ignore you. You'd be crazy to let that happen. Could your brand benefit from better search-engine rankings in Google?
Yes, Google made mistakes at the beginning and yes, Google+ is a bit complicated to set up, if you do it properly. Remember, it was developed by engineers.
But Google+ is now the second largest social network -- right behind Facebook (693 million users) and gaining -- with 500 million members, 359 million of whom are active monthly, a 27% increase in the past three months.
Here are the top three things Google+ does right:
Hangouts on Air. This is a remarkable -- no cost -- video chat that an unlimited number of people can join. The feature is unique to Google+ and it antiquates platforms like GoToMeeting. No downloads are needed. You can start a Hangout from your Gmail account or your Google+ page. You can broadcast your Hangout in real time and save it to your YouTube channel.
With the click of a mouse, you can hold a chat with 10,000 of your closest friends (just like President Obama or NASA, share slides and collaborate on documents with colleagues and clients, broadcast a performance or a concert, conduct on-the-street interviews, or set up a weekly talk show that you broadcast globally from your living room.
Circles. Google+ circle makes sharing content fast, easy and precise. According to Searchmetrics, sharing on Google+ is poised to surpass sharing on Facebook by 2016. When you add contacts to circles, you can assign them to a particular group such as family, co-workers, friends, etc. Then you can easily select which of your followers will see your Google+ updates. If you want to share something with your bridge club, you choose that circle and only those contacts see the post.
When you make updates public, that is, not choosing to share them with a particular circle, everyone who has you in their circles can see them. Google+ users also can share circles with each other, and you can choose to follow circles that others have created. This is a great way to tap into a circle of experts and join the conversation. And, when a Google+ user "circles" (follows) you, they are also giving you permission to send them e-mail, making the platform an even more valuable marketing tool.
Communities. There are two types of Google+ communities, public and private. The communities feature allows groups to form around particular interests. From brands to boating enthusiasts, authors to astronauts, communities creates a virtual meeting place for like-minded people with shared interests. You can even join communities as a brand, which you can't do on Facebook, so you can interact with influencers, experts, current and potential customers.
Differences in strategy on Google+ and Facebook have to do with the different features each offers. Google+ should be more visual and interactive, because Google+ Hangouts lets you video chat in real time with as many, or as few, people as you choose. You then have the opportunity to edit your videos in YouTube if you choose to make them public on your YouTube channel, which seamlessly integrates with Google+. These tools, which Facebook doesn't have, provide an excellent opportunity to build a following and to increase your search engine status.
Another key difference is in the way you can share content. G+ Circles lets you decide exactly who can see which content, and therefore you need to create more specific content for your circles. Facebook content is more broad brush.
And let's not forget that -- at least for the moment -- there's no advertising, on Google+. The time is now! The first step is creating a content strategy that is unique to Google+. Then create your profile and get busy, or you'll soon be invisible.