It’s been an interesting few days watching the roller coaster ride of comments and opinions about Google+ from the many people who were in on the early action before Google shut down the invitation process. There have been numerous articles describing the features of Google+ from a user’s perspective and so no sense in re-inventing that wheel here. This is a great breakdown by Elliot S. Volkman to clue you in on the basics.
What we haven’t seen much of as yet is a look at Google+ from a brand marketer’s perspective. A few conclusions and also questions we’ve gathered from the past days’ discussions follow:
- Skype should be worried. The Hangout group video chat feature of Google+ is likely to give Skype a run for the money. Hangout is a collaboration tool that is like a video chat room with up to 10 people video chatting at once. Users can just hangout, or watch a YouTube video together. This is probably the most exciting part of Google+ for consumers and offers interesting new engagement possibilities for brands.
- Will this change the rules of engagement that marketers have worked so hard at perfecting? If people start abandoning Facebook and choosing Google+ for their online socializing experience, marketers are going to have to do some serious rethinking of social strategies. Right now, on Facebook, people get a somewhat personal engagement experience with the brands they like. With a brand’s content flowing in the stream between Aunt Betty’s 90th birthday pictures and their co-worker’s joke of the day, there is an inherent sense of comraderie. Your brand becomes a part of the individual’s social life. On Google+, where friends are segmented into circles based on interests, brands are going to be the uncool kids left out of the circle. How does a marketer get in?
The answer is through the socially oriented search results. One of the main effects of Google+ is how it makes it easier for consumers to turn to their friends for information. This is most obviously true within the circle discussions, but even more importantly is the fact that Google now changes search results to be more relevant to the consumer as influenced by their friend’s interests. The way for marketers to stay top of mind (and top of search results) is to get as many people as possible hitting those Like, Follow or +1 buttons. Social audience marketing will shift even more toward the importance of activating and rewarding influencers and advocates.
- Will your fans abandon Facebook for Google+? Maybe. Maybe not. The huddle and hangout features are a definite win for users over the Facebook experience and the concept of segmenting friends based on their interests is useful. Meteor’s CEO Ben was just saying how his Facebook college friends are starting to complain about the quantity of his marketing related posts. But what if Ben could have circles of interest groups like old college buddies, marketing leaders, political thinkers, etc. He could focus on the interests of the groups and the conversations might really be awesome. However, with that said, it’s unlikely many people will take the time to set it up. We already all have lists on Twitter and Facebook that we set up with these same intentions only to abandon them when they proved to be too much work to keep up. The immense effort to classify everyone in the setup process will scare more than a few people away and, for the 10 people who actually do it, keeping it up to date as new people are added is a huge commitment. Just as most people would rather wear their comfy old sweatshirt than buy a new one, it is quite possible that people will stick to their Facebook habits rather than go through the effort to switch to Google+. Except for the uber social among us, most people don’t have the time and energy to keep up with more than one or two social networks.
- How does this fit in with +1? A greater integration with +1 will be an opportunity for brands to become more relevant in the Google social sphere of things. To +1 a piece of content is the same as to “Like” it. Though it does affect search results currently, right now people can’t see what their friends have +1′ed in the stream. Marketers will be asking for that feature for sure. No doubt it’s on the horizon. To take advantage of an integration, brand marketers will need to add +1 buttons to all of their content and develop programs to find and reward influencers.
- Will Google collect data for advertising? Google+ will clearly enrich behavioral data available to Google and impact the effectiveness of their advertising services. As can be surmised by the collection of this data, Google is looking at circles not just as a great socializing opportunity for consumers but as a way to offer marketers better audience data for retargeted advertising.
We’ll be watching the Google news closely over these next few months and continuing to ride the roller coaster of opinions on this to see how it all shapes up. In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to my social media community manager group discussions on Facebook.