Over the last few months Google, the advertising-supported company that historically eschewed traditional advertising, has used print and TV media to promote Google+, its answer to the Facebook phenomena.
TV viewers in the US may be familiar with Google+ commercials such as The Muppets Google+ hangout.
Google is also promoting Google+ across Europe. Full page ads have appeared in major European dailies, such as Germany’s Süddeutscher Zeitung (see image) and Italy’s La Repubblica. In Italy, Google+ commercials are tailored to focus on Italians’ appreciation of things like fashion and cellular phones.
In the UK a TV ad based on Shakespeare’s As You Like It seeks to inform viewers of Google+’s usefulness at every stage of their lives.
Regardless of the market, the Google+ campaigns aim to convince the masses that Google+ is the social network for them.
But Google+ Is A Ghost Town, Right?
At the same time Google is pulling out all the stops to convince John and Jane Q. Public to use Google+, some journalists have proclaimed Google+ to be a ghost town, a meme that just won’t die, even if many people and brands, including Marketing Land, are successfully using Google+ for their professional communication.
Facebook Will Dominate Social Unless It Has A Serious Mishap
Google+ is an excellent product, in some ways superior to Facebook (and I don’t just mean Hangouts, just try searching for a post in Facebook – you can’t).
Yet excellence isn’t necessarily enough to become number 1, a lesson Sony learned when it gave up the BetaMax/VHS battle. Facebook’s VHS will continue to be good enough for most users unless Facebook suffers a serious mishap, such as a data breach which exposes users’ private data.
It seems unlikely that Google+ advertising will be any more effective in convincing significant numbers of people to migrate to Google+ any more than Bing’s ads (or Ask’s before them) were in luring people away from Google search.
Rare is the user who wants to manage an additional social network – perhaps Google should focus on supporting simultaneous publication with other social networks? If Facebook, known for its walled-garden policies, can publish to twitter and vice versa, it does seem strange that Google+ is still closed.
If an update is really important, it should probably be crafted for each social network in order to optimize formatting, image selection, etc, but for the average person, simultaneous publication could speed Google+ adoption.
Communicators Still Gain By Using Google+
Despite some doubts about near term Google+ usage, anyone who wants to communicate professionally should be using Google+ – if for no other reason, then to take advantage of the prominence Google is giving Google+ in many Google search results.
Currently Google+ primarily impacts search results on Google.com. Those outside the US are in the fortunate position to be able to see the future now, and act accordingly, before the future arrives. To the extent anyone is using Google+ or not is a secondary consideration when Google Search visibility is factored in to the equation.
In speaking to a cross section of marketers in Europe, marketers are aware of Google+ in general but aren’t yet convinced there’s value in adding Google+ to their current communications mix.
Google+ management tools may be lacking, but is pasting a Facebook update into Google+ at the same time really all that difficult? Yes, Google+ is another social media platform to master, and there will be a need to respond to comments. Yet any extra costs should be minimal when compared to the value of additional visibility in Google search.
Not Convinced? Let Google+ Show You The Numbers
Not yet convinced Google+ is worth the effort? User engagement within Google+ is easy to measure.
Every social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) post contains at least three engagement possibilities: a user can endorse (+1, like, favorite), comment and/or share (forward, retweet) a post.
Google highlights engagement statistics in every Google+ post (it would be nice if Google+ also offered a list of engagement statistics for each post, together with summary data), data which is also available in Facebook as well.
Ripples, a feature unique to Google+, allows a visualization of the actual reach of any Google+ post which has been shared publicly. If a post contains a link, clicks can be tracked by using a URL shortener – a fourth engagement point.
Traffic to a company website can be measured using a traditional web analytics system, such as Google’s own Google Analytics. Of course not all social media users are active participants — there will always be a significant percentage of lurkers who we cannot track.
Google’s Social Story Not Well Understood
One issue Google may have is that people may not be taking Google’s social aspirations very seriously.
Few seem to know that Google invented one of the first generalist social networks, Orkut, way back in 2004, 3 years before Facebook was launched.
At a recent presentation by a practice leader of a major consulting group, Orkut was described as a Google acquisition — Google clearly has some education to do.
The real problem is that until last year Social was not a management priority at Google – and as we all know, without management support a project, however meritorious, will usually languish. Internally, Google has tied bonuses to social performance. Externally, well, there’s an ad for that!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.