Earlier in the week the Wall Street Journal and Comscore published a report on usage of Google+. The good news for the site is that it has accumulated over 100 million users since its launch in July 2011. The bad news is that average time spent on the site per month is at just around 3 minutes.
For brands constantly looking to innovate, the lure of a large audience is tempting, but the low levels of engagement on the site present an issue for brands looking to expand their digital presence to Google+. However, in the network’s short lifespan, some brands have been building engagement with their biggest fans by leveraging the unique aspects of Google+.
What are brands currently doing in this space?
When Google+ originally launched, the service didn’t support official brand pages. This has changed, and brands from every vertical are demonstrating how the platform can be used to build engagement beyond what is currently possible on Facebook.
Coca-Cola: 356,000+ Followers
Coca-Cola uses Google+ to build engagement through Hangouts and video sharing. The company’s renewed focus on content marketing makes sharing Coca-Cola’s YouTube videos on Google+ a natural fit.
The brand also taps into the fierce loyalty to Coca-Cola’s marketing history by hosting Hangouts that let participants see different memorabilia from the Coca-Cola archive, get appraisals of collectibles, and learn more about the company’s history.
Burberry: 411,000+ Followers
Burberry has taken an approach to Google+ that leverages the unique qualities of the platform. The five images at the top of the profile are animated GIFs/cinemagrams to add a nice creative touch to the profile. Burberry shares photos from runway shows and behind the scenes content to create a value exchange with Google+ users.
Samsung USA: 384,000+ Followers
Samsung USA uses Google+ to promote new products, cross-promote marketing efforts with launch partners like AT&T and Best Buy and engage in conversations with fans.
Samsung’s Google+ presence covers launches across the company’s entire product portfolio, highlighting press coverage of Samsung products across the Web. Photos and videos are shared to build engagement.
Movie and TV Marketing
The Muppets: 396,000+ Followers
The Muppets has a strong Google+ presence that beats out many consumer brands. The franchise relaunched in 2011 and has used Google+ to engage with fans and release content through the film’s theatrical and home releases. Hangouts with the Muppets and the film’s cast/crew and regular photo updates have enabled The Muppets to keep Google+ users engaged through the film’s marketing lifecycle.
The Muppets were even a part of Google+’s advertising campaign, featuring different Muppets characters having a Hangout. This use of Hangouts to produce original video shows how the platform can even be used as a method of original content production.
White House: 214,000+ Followers
The Obama White House has used Google+ as a way to engage directly with citizens through Hangouts. Google used Google+ Hangouts and YouTube video comments to find people to participate into a Hangout with Obama that addressed any lingering questions following the 2012 State of the Union Address. Media properties like Fox News have also used Google+ to conduct interviews with Republican candidates that include Google+ users as participants.
How do I get started on Google+?
If you’ve used Google at all recently, you’re probably already a Google+ user without even realizing it. Google+ is the social layer that now sits on top of Google’s other services like Search and YouTube.
You can sign up for Google+ as a new user or by using your current Google Account (Gmail, Android, etc.) After signing up for Google+, you can import contacts from your Yahoo! and Gmail address books and start putting them into Circles. Circles is a feature that lets you organize contacts to make it easier to manage sharing content to the right audiences. For example, sharing an item to your Friends circle means it won’t be public to your Family circle. If you’re not into creating and managing circles, you can publish public posts that anyone can see. These features differ very little from similar offerings like Facebook lists, but they are not available on Twitter, making Google+ a Twitter/Facebook hybrid.
Another feature unique to Google+ is Hangouts. Hangouts make it possible for users to host video chats with up to 10 people, and you can share content like documents, videos, screencasts, and doodles while doing the video chat.
Google+ also uses the +1 button, which is very similar to Facebook’s Like button. Google makes the +1 button more valuable by making items that are +1’d have a higher likelihood of showing up in a user’s Google search results later.
Google+ is new, but Google has been around for a while. Much of Google+’s future will depend on our ability to leverage the entire Google marketing ecosystem to drive awareness that leads to social engagement.
Changes to Search Engine Optimization
An important aspect of Google+ to remember is that Google+ links together all of Google’s other properties. It is a social layer on top of Google’s other products like YouTube, Gmail, and Google Voice.
Moving forward, Google+ will be an important part of a company’s regular campaign work with Google and provide social extensions like the +1 and Brand Pages to generate leads and build relationships with an engaged fanbase.
Placing a Premium on Video
Google+’s features like Hangouts and YouTube integration will make video an important aspect of marketing on Google. The ability to use owned media created for YouTube to spur engagement through sharing and discussions is important. Brands will also need to think about how to use Hangouts for live events, behind the scenes, and cast/crew interviews.
Tying it All Together
Instead of thinking of a Google+ strategy, the focus will need to be instead on a comprehensive Google strategy.
Display ads, brand videos, SEO/SMO, social media, and real-time interaction will all be managed as a single campaign instead of silo’d initiatives. Partnering with Google to create synergies between touchpoints will be important.
Simeon Spearman, 02.26.12