Once lauded as the social network to watch, it appears that Google+ has taken a backseat while platforms like Twitter and Facebook have continued to dominate the social space. The site has certainly seen its fair share of criticism. The media hasn’t held back either, with some outlets bypassing asking is Google Plus dead and outright declaring the network obsolete.
Numerous redesigns, shuttered features and the complete removal of popular tools has increased the interest and value in the social network. Still, some brands are asking: Is Google+ relevant for businesses? Should you continue devoting time and resources to it?
The answer is yes. But before we dive into why, let’s take a quick look at the current state of Google+.
Google+ By the Numbers
Demographics for Google+ are still hard to come by but there appears to be some great SEO potential.
Based on data pulled from a Statistic Brain report:
- 74% of users are male
- 26% of users are female
- 55% of users are from the US
- 18% of users are from India
- 6% of users are from Brazil
- 5% of users are from the UK
- 4% of users are from Canada
There is some discrepancy around how many active users are on Google+. Some reports claim the site has upward of 343 million, while more recent studies found just 9% (roughly 198 million) of Google’s 2.2 billion users actually post content on the platform. Other studies claim that only 1% (about 22 million) of that 2.2 billion are active.
But instead of dismissing the platform and asking is Google Plus dead, let’s not forget that you always want to think in terms of quality and not quantity when it comes to successful social media marketing. So whether there are 22 million or 343 million people posting consistently on Google+, there are still millions of opportunities to engage.
So What’s Different?
Last November, Google began rolling out a redesigned Google+. In addition to a simpler look and feel, Communities and Collections are now at the center of it all. According to Google, these are the two features its user base utilizes the most.
Since they’re now such a big part of the Google+ experience, let’s take a closer look at these features.
As a business using social media, one of your goals should be to create a thriving community around your product or service. With Google+ Communities, you can do just that.
Google+ Communities are groups created around a specific interest, organization or passion by either an individual or a business. They’re free, flexible and a great way to engage customers in direct conversation. Communities can be public or private, open to everyone or accessible by invite only.
Creating a Google+ Community is easy. If you’re already using the new version of Google+, click on the menu icon in the top left corner of the screen and scroll down to Communities. From there, click on the “Yours” tab and then click on “Create a community.”
If you’re still using the classic version of Google+, click on the drop-down menu at the top left corner of the screen and select Communities. Once there, click on the blue “Create community” button to the right of Community Invitations.
Just remember that you’re only as strong as your moderator team. Moderators keep the stream populated with interesting content and clear of spam. We recommend someone directly involved with your business act as a moderator, but it’s also beneficial to share that title with some of your most loyal and active fans.
Sometimes creating your own community might not make the most sense for your brand, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in them. You can search for existing Communities relevant to your industry.
For example, since we work with a lot of community managers, our social media team is active in the Community Managers Google+ Community. Not only are we engaging around a topic we’re passionate about, but we’re exchanging ideas with our peers and customers.
If you’re an auto brand, the Car Enthusiast Community would be a great place to start. Musicians and bands should check out Communities like Google+ Music. The Home Improvement Community might be a good fit for lifestyle and DIY brands.
You can also use Communities to inspire content. For example, Word of the Day, Joke of the Day, Beautiful Places or Thinkers could be just what you need to get your creative juices flowing. At the very last, it could inspire some unique content to share with your own Community.
Google+ Collections are similar to Communities in that they’re built around shared interests, but there’s a shift in who controls the content.
This feature lets you create content collections around topics and interests, and it also lets your followers choose the type of posts they want to see from you. For example, a restaurant might create separate Collections for photos, recipes, kitchen hacks and other interests. its followers can then decide which Collection they’d like to see instead of all four.
Collections can be shared publicly, privately or with specific sets of users. You can also decide whether people who follow you will automatically follow one of your Collections (similar to what happens when you create a new Pinterest board).
When someone follows your Collection, the posts you make in that Collection will appear in their home stream. They’ll be able to +1, comment on and re-share any posts you add to your Collection. Here’s an example of a Collections post from Ford:
Once clicked, we’re taken to a new stream full of posts that have been added to that Collection. We can either browse through the Collection or click on Follow to receive updates in our home stream whenever a new post is added.
From a user’s perspective, Collections allow the person to clean up their stream and fine tune it to better match their own interests. Unlike on Facebook, where you’re up against an algorithm, Google+ puts the user in control of what they want to see. What this means for businesses is that if someone follows your Collection, they’re opting in to seeing more of you and your content.
Even if you’re not creating a Collection, you might be part of one. Check out this Best Restaurants in Austin Collection. Granted this is only one person’s opinion, but the Collection is featured on the main tab and likely to be discovered by foodies searching for new eats in the Austin area. If this Collection were created by an influencer, their mention of you could be seen by thousands of other Google+ users.
Google+ Communities vs Collections
The two features detailed above are now the bread and butter of Google+’s offerings to users and businesses. They’re very similar in nature, so let’s quickly iron out what makes them different so you’re ready to start using them:
- Can have more than one owner and moderator.
- Allows other people to join a Community and post in it.
- Let’s other members of that Community to possibly see your posts in their home stream.
- Are created by just one person and only that person can post content.
- Let you follow someone else’s Collection, but you can’t share posts into someone else’s Collection.
Don’t Give Up on Google+ Yet
Google+ may have gone through a lot of changes since its launch, but it’s far from dead. The only thing that’s changed is how people are using it. Interests are key. While people turn to Facebook to share everything from articles to status updates about work, content on Google+ seems focused around a particular topic. This creates a huge opportunity for businesses to segment audiences and share content with the most relevant groups possible.
Additionally, there are a ton of ways to engage—from small actions such as +1s to in-depth conversations in Communities. Everything you do on Google+ drives people back to your Google+ Page and website. Make sure that you have Google+ management tools in place to monitor traffic and engagement. If you’re skeptical about Google+, monitor your activity and re-evaluate after a couple of months.
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.