What is it?
Google recently launched its own social network Google Plus.
It started rolling out to a limited number of users late last month in what the company is calling a field trial.
Currently only individuals can join, but Google product manager Christian Oestlien confirmed that they will be rolling out beta testing for business profiles later this year.
He said; “Right now we’re very much focused on optimising for the consumer experience, but we have a great team of engineers building a similarly optimised business experience for Google +”.
“It’ll include things like rich analytics and the ability to connect that identity to other parts of Google that businesses might use on a daily basis like AdWords.” More here…
Google + is structured in a very similar way to Facebook, with profile pictures and news feeds forming the central core, groups being on the left, friend suggestions on the right and the chat window appearing in the bottom right corner.
However one of the biggest differences to Facebook is that in Google +, a user’s friends or contacts must be grouped into specific circles of their choosing (ie. friends, family, and acquaintances. You can also create your own groups) – as opposed to the general pool of friends on Facebook. Users can then share photos, videos or other information within any or all of these groups.
1. +1 button – similar to Facebook’s ‘Like’ button
By now, you will have certainly heard of and seen these little buttons in your Google search.
The +1 button (essentially Google + answer to Facebook’s ‘Like’ button) is short for “this is cool!” or “you should check this out!”
It appears as a small icon next to each Google search result and will appear on websites that have included the +1 functionality.
Users can click on the +1 button either via search or the webpage to publicly give it their thumbs up.
The number near the +1 button shows the total number of people who have clicked on the button so far. Similar to ‘Liking’ a page and giving your support to the content, a page with a higher number, is a page that more users have clicked on the button to support it.
Your +1’s are stored in a tab on your Google + profile. You can show your +1’s tab to the anyone on the world wide web, or you can keep it private and use it as a personal record of all the things you love on the web (ie cute cats and dogs).
+1 helps people discover relevant content from the people they already know and trust.
Your +1’s will help your friends and contacts to find the most relevant stuff when they search. For example, say you recommended a restaurant in London to a friend; your +1 will help them find it! (if they are logged in to Google and if they are using Google to search).
For your business, adding the +1 button to your webpages lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it’s most relevant – in the context of Google search results.
Recently many studies have stated that social media has started to influence rankings in search results, so there is no doubt that +1 will have a huge part in influencing the ranking of sites within Google’s search results listings.
Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Web Spam team, has stated in the past that Google does take social interaction results into account when determining the level of quality of a given piece of content…so the more +1’s your website gets, the more popular it will become.
2. Circles – group your friends together
As already briefly mentioned, Google + makes it necessary for users to separate family, friends, and acquaintances into separate groups, called “circles.”
You can create your own custom circles and add people by dragging them in from a list of contacts into the specific group, making it easier to share what you want and to whom.
3. Sparks – helps you find interesting content based on your interests
Sparks is a news feed (like Google Reader), however it automatically brings content to you based on your interests. Each topic will get its own “spark” page and provide links to related articles, videos, photos, etc
4. Hangouts – video chat with up to 10 of your friends at once
Allows as many as 10 Google + users to video chat simultaneously.
5. Huddles – group messaging app
Group messaging feature for people within your circles.
The Google + mobile apps let you send messages from your phone. Users can select a group, and everyone within it can chat with each other.
6. Instant Upload – shares your photos taken on your mobile
Instant upload means that any photo you snap will automatically be uploaded to Google +.
But be warned – instant upload is turned on in your Google+ mobile application by default.
How to get started?
In order to take advantage of these features, you will first need a public Google profile.
When you create your profile, be aware that it’s visible to anyone on the web, however those people already connected with your email address will be able to discover you easier.
Click here for a comprehensive guide on how to set up your Google profile…
An overview of what it doesn’t do…just yet
- No companies allowed. In fact, you need to be personally invited at this stage by another Google+ user before being able to connect with others.
- No games such as Facebook’s Farmville
What Google + might mean for your business?
Even though business profiles are not currently available, there is still great value for travel marketers to set up personal accounts in order to become familiar with the key features and build “circles” in your sector.
So start communicating and publishing about your area of expertise and try to integrate your business keywords into your posts. Build your personal profile within a network of people that you WILL be able to interact with once business pages DO arrive.
Where Google + will really provide benefits for businesses will be in way that you will be able to send highly relevant, targeted content to your customers. Using circles, you can segment your customers into groups such as “sharers” or “brand advocates”, enabling you to send appropriate communications to each group. You could also feature employees into circles such as “management”, “directors”, and “executives”.
Furthermore, when your customers decide to browse the circle where they have placed your brand, they will be in the right frame of mind to interact with you, ensuring your communications are reaching their maximum effect. As Google’s Christian Oestlien says;
“How users communicate with each other is different from how they communicate with brands, and we want to create an optimal experience for both. We have a great team of engineers actively building an amazing Google+ experience for businesses, and we will have something to show the world later this year.”
Other benefits include;
- Any +1’s your business content receives will have a direct impact on your organic search engine rankings.
- The Hangouts video function may be used to chat with customers to gather feedback or to arrange meetings.
- Sparks will also enable you to see what your customers are most interested in, enabling you to send more targeted communications.
Although Google have yet to announce an official date for businesses to get involved, it will be interesting to see how its popularity evolves over time.
Are you a fan of Google +? How do you see Google + will benefit your business?