Can’t figure out your Google+ account? You and everybody else we know. Philip Mak investigates what worked and didn’t work with the soon-to-be-defunct social network…
You can’t really be blamed if you have no idea what a “Google+” is. For Google’s flagship social network, the struggle has been very, very real. In the war for your attention that social media outlets wage daily, Google+ came out guns blazing in 2011 though, ultimately, they were shooting blanks. So much so that Google recently announced that it will be dismantling Google+ into separate Photos, Streams, and Hangouts entities.
While many thought the power of Google could make anything into a success, Google+ never quite tapped into that addictive quality that hooks people to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The proof is in the numbers: Since its inception, Google+ has managed to attract about 540 million active monthly users, which puts it ahead of Twitter. In terms of usage however, Google+ only gets about 7 minutes a month in attention. By comparison, Facebook gets 21 minutes every day. Cue: tumbleweed.
In many ways Google+ has the same qualities as other social networks, including Like, Share, and Comment functions. So, what has made Google+ such a train wreck? Well, for one, Google forced itself on many users. Youtube users who want to upload or comment on a video now must subscribe to a Google+ account, as do Gmail customers. This naturally led to significant backlash, particularly for the more libertarian corners of the Youtube community. On the flip side, this means there are millions of Google+ users who are either not aware of the fact that they have an account (as it attached to their emails) or have no idea what to do with it.
Paradoxically, when it was initially released, Google+ was invite-only. While this did generate significant buzz, Google+ lacked the necessary spark to differentiate itself from people’s pre-existing social networks – social networks which have integrated themselves into people’s lives to the level of habit and even addiction. Anybody who has been camping or has taken a long flight can speak to the reality of Facebook withdrawal.
What should have made Google+ great is likely what ultimately killed it. It is highly functional but it simply does too much. Many users feel overwhelmed just logging in to it. So, while it still exists, how can you use it to your advantage?
First and foremost, Google+ will never be fun. It’ll never be the social network where people get totally hooked and stalk the ex-wives of their cousins, twice removed. Rather, it can be an effective tool for sharing content, particularly if you want to really connect with and target an audience.
Be Seen and Heard
If you work in a creative industry such as media, photography, blogging, or marketing, Google+ can help you get the word out. By posting your content onto the social network, you raise your rankings on Google’s algorithm. Basically, you’ll come up sooner on Google searches related to you. The more people share and like your content, the higher the ranking and the greater the visibility. For writers, this can be especially helpful as your Blogger account (which is owned by Google, FYI) can be streamed directly onto your Google+ page. If you are making pay-per-click advertising money from your site, this can spell out major financial benefits. The key is just to keep pumping content on there.
Hangouts are the new Backstage Access Pass
If you’re a brand manager, the Hangouts feature on Google+ is a great tool to do some person-to-person interaction directly with your audience. While it may seem like a Skype wannabe, you can actually host up to 10 people at a time in a Hangout session. Remember, as a company or a public figure, social media is meant to humanize you. It’s a way for your audience to get to know you, and for you to know your audience. Famous brands and people who’ve gotten to know their fans more intimately with Google+ Hangouts include Barack Obama, the Black Eyed Peas, and NASA. This will become a separate entity following the dismantling of Google+.
Market to Men
Approximately 60 to 70% of Google+ users are men. Most of them are young and educated. 44% are single. This spells lots and lots of disposable income. If you’re a menswear designer, own the next big technology company, or work for a luxury car dealership, you should be on Google+. Oh yes, and sports and online dating. Meeting on Google+ could totally be the next Tinder… right?
When Google+ is chopped up for parts, this will be turned into a standalone Photos service. If you’re a photographer, Google+ has a beautifully-designed photo sharing and editing service that allows you to upload content without needing to resize it, thus maintaining original quality. The editing app is also user-friendly and far more effective than any Instagram filter, with storage space that is essentially limitless.
Create a Buzzing Business Page
As described above, Google+ can seriously up your Google search rankings so long as you share content on it. By getting your company a Google+ Page, you have the option of adding multimedia content like photos and videos at their highest quality. Unlike Facebook, which can make even the most basic of links tricky to upload and share, Google+ is extremely content-friendly. Furthermore, you can directly pick which audiences you want to target, thus allowing for more tailored marketing campaigns. These days, to cut through the noise, you have to know your niche and Google+ can help you do that.
Can’t wait to get cracking your Google+ page? Let us know what projects you’re up to in the comments section below or tweet us at @ViewTheVibe.