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In the 15 months since the launch of Google+, over 250 million people are using it. Though many of commented on it being a ghost town, this is far from the case. On average, users are on Google + 12 minutes a day, which is just shy of Facebook's average of 14 minutes a day. With over one million brands jumping on the wagon (including over 50% of the top 100 US brands), this arena is growing rapidly. With 5 Billion plus ones per day, this has been the fastest global social share button in history.

Yes. Today I've been getting schooled on the world of Google Plus in my first session at Social Media Week Chicago. Though I was asked how many people are holding accounts to prevent brand jacking, the stats say that it's use is only growing and I'd argue, if you're just sitting on your brand page, you're missing a huge opportunity to get ahead of your competition.

Circles

So those of you who use Google+, you may already be familiar with circles. Once you place someone is in your circle, your content will be in their Google+ stream.  As a brand, you can only put people into your circles and segment if they follow you. This double opt-in was built to protect the privacy of individuals. Companies like Intel, for instance, are using circles for press, behind the scenes at Intel, products and then for those just interested in tech.

Google Chicago uses it to also segment between local and global followers to allow them to send events and local information to people who can attend.

Hangouts

More than half the room have professed to using Hangouts for business but the live broadcast to "On Air," like we tried last week with our Find your relevance with email Hangout, is still in it's infancy with most people and for most businesses.

When you keep your Hangout restrained to Google+, you can you limit your invitation to individuals or certain circles and keep the hangout relatively private or you can go completely public with it. By sending it to YouTube, you are allowing for viewers who aren't on Google+ to interact with it and it will also archive it. Even better, you can download the archived video, chop it up (or edit in YouTube) and repost. Tada! Panel sessions from around the world with only a laptop and some wifi needed.

Google +1 

Most sites have adopted the Google +1 button, or if they haven't, they should as it's, surprise, surprise, another way to endorse content.  

As presented by Google's Midwest Community Manager, Amy Ravit Korin, 71% of people say reviews form family members or friends influence decisions while 84% use online sources when deciding what to buy. And they have seen an increase of 5-10% in CTR to those businesses endorsed by a friend.

Google can see this since introducing Search plus your world. This is meant to give you more personalized results back when you search on Google so if you +1 something or add a brand to a circle, this will affect the results of anyone who has you in their circles.

This helps in organic search and according to Korin, "it's word of mouth coming to Google search." This is separate to Google search and if you want to see a "clean" search, you need to be signed out of Google and you Chrome browser when you search. This social search is separate from SEO except for the fact it supersedes it. So if you are managing a brand, you want to be in your fans circles as much (and as fast) as possible. In my opinion at least. 

Facebook is just a website after all. But Google is much more than that especially with over 1 billion searches per day on Google. 

With the purchase of Zagat last year by Google, they now also have a huge data base of reviews when you use Google Local to search. It ranks them by Zagat rating UNLESS you search from your circles and then you see what the people in your circles have +1-ed on Google. Google also allow you to add your own reviews and once you regularly review (and you can do this from a brand page), you will start to get recommendations based on your reviews and what you liked/ didn't like.

Yelp's days look numbered.

A little help from you (Yes, I mean it!)

I am starting research on my first report for Econsultancy on Google+, Hangouts and Local so you get the low down on how to use it to benefit the brands you work with. We'll include stats, interviews and case studies.

In order for me to tailor it to you (and not spend a year writing it), I'd love your questions, examples of brands doing it right - ESPECIALLY Hangouts which will be my main focus. Please put them below or send me an email directly. 

If we're going to have to use Google Plus, we might as well do it right.

Heather Taylor

Published 25 September, 2012 by Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor is the Editorial Director for Econsultancy US. You can follow her on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

236 more posts from this author

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Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis, Google Analytics Analyst at Koozai

I've been using Google+ more than Facebook for a while now but haven't interacted with any big brands. I'm more about keeping my social platforms for people not advertising, which I expect to get if I follow brands.

It would be interesting to know what other people look to get out of Google+ as I'm sure some people will use it for keeping up with brands whereas others will use it for socialising and others just for local businesses. It has so many functions that some insight to this would be good.

almost 4 years ago

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Steve Mc

You say, "Most sites have adopted the Google +1 button, or if they haven't, they should as it's, surprise, surprise, another way to endorse content." However, try as I might I can not find the +1 button on this site.

almost 4 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Like Anna, I have used G+ for a while now (in fact since the beginning) but I haven't used it much for interacting with brands, only related individuals.

Industry insiders are well aware of the benefits of brands using it, mainly the enhanced visibility in the search results once 'Search Plus Your World' rolls out fully. I try to convey this to my clients, however I don't believe Google has promoted these types of benefits to brands and as such they haven't seen much reason to adopt a G+ presence.

In last month I've noticed a few more brands 'experiment' with G+. But one of the original brands launching headfirst into G+ was Cadbury. they have utilised it to all it's extent, including breaching it's terms and conditions. They've used Hangouts On Air to interview Olympians.

G+ offers brands a wide variety of features and have recently announced more 'private' features for brands so they plan their messaging before going live.

i have a circle with mainly UK brands on G+ for anyone to add to theirs, just follow this link: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113546265101950310621/posts/NCFwtuTvDPM

If I had a question for your report Taylor, it would be 'Why is Google promoting the benefits of Google+ to brands in great detail'. Most brands seemed to be confused with what they are suppose to do with G+

almost 4 years ago

Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor, Editorial Director at Econsultancy

Anna and Dean - thanks for the comments and great jumping off points!

Steve - we have G+ at the top of each article page (just scroll up to the top of this page - it's between the Twitter and the Facebook share button) so it's there and we're rolling out more ways for you to connect with us on Google + as well...

almost 4 years ago

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Manchester PR agency

Heather,

with time pressure other social media channels and so many contacts favouring Twitter or LinkedIn is there any need for Google Plus

Yes, search for your blog or website

I will get more into Google Plus but no great urgency as yet to get more involved

250 million users but how much penetration, especially in the UK?

Rob

almost 4 years ago

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Kate - Appliances Online

I've been looking a lot into Google+ myself these past few weeks, as I believe there is some real potential. I'm currently running the Appliances Online page, and starting to experiment with Hangouts on Air and such.

I think the biggest issue is peoples' and brand's understanding of what it is for? There are endless comparisons to Facebook, however it's clearly different! Different audience, different functionality, and different needs. It's more about sharing fascinating imagery and content than telling your friends what you're doing every 10 minutes.

What is missing I think, from a business/brand perspective, is a way to monitor the success (or not) of your page! Google are spending so much time trying to encourage brands to utilise this great platform, with unique features - which is great. But ultimately, if brands are going to invest time, and therefore money, into Google+, they need to see some sort of return.

I know Social Bakers are working on a monitoring tool, but is there any way of keeping tabs on your page without having to write down every bit of information manually?

Also, Hangouts on Air are great - we tried our first one last Sunday. But when only 9 other people can join, what other ways can an audience engage? You can comment, but this is hard to see when you're in the hangout. I know making an event can include 'party mode' to upload photos instantly, but how else can an audience be involved?

Thanks,

Kate

almost 4 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Kate, Although G+ may not have the sort of reporting you are used to, you can find whole bunch of useful data via Google Analytics social reporting. So I recommend checking that out to find out more about your engaged audience and how they interacted with your website. You can then put a value against these if you have conversion/ecommerce tracking.

Also within G+ use the Ripples feature to see how you messaging has traveled across the network.

Sounds like you have put effort into G+ already. Good luck

almost 4 years ago

Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis, Google Analytics Analyst at Koozai

As mentioned by Dean, here's some information about tracking Google+ within the Google Analytics social reports - http://www.koozai.com/blog/analytics/google-analytics-social-reports-explored/

I agree that it's hard to track what you achieve on Google+, but Google are trying, which is a good sign!

You might also want to try Social Crawlytics for some social data, it might not monitor the page itself but can show you how well your websites pages are shared - http://socialcrawlytics.com/

almost 4 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Heather,

Thanks for the article. G+ in the UK is mainly used by industry peeps, though the company-customer interaction is starting to show.

I think the key thing here is resource prioritisation for businesses. There is the low impact/easy to implement +1 button and then the more time consuming option of proactively managing a G+ profile.

Brands don't have to be on G+ to get the boost in personalised search results. If you provide people with the opportunity to +1 your webpages using the buttons, then your webpage can get an uplift without you having to have your own G+ page.

The impact of G+ in terms of clicks, visits, conversions etc is really low - my CLients (mainly retail) have seen minimal benefit from this social channel. That's not saying it won't become more important, but currently if a company has limited resource I would recommend they focus on Facebook/Twitter/YouTube first (+ LinkedIn for B2B). FB and Twitter are more established for customer interaction and have far greater reach. G+ has not had any serious uptake yet from individuals wanting to interact with brands (with the exception of a handful of very large global brands).

That said, I think Hangouts could start to change the social media dynamic. If companies can use them intelligently to add value to customers and improve communication, it's possible that more customers will use G+. Currently, Hangouts are in their infancy and it will take bold moves from companies to get more people using them.

What's your experience of companies in the US using Hangouts?

An example of how it can fail is from Nissan (https://plus.google.com/u/0/113546265101950310621/posts). Even though this one bombed, it's only by trying new ways of communicating that brands like Nissan will learn how to succeed socially.

Thanks
james

almost 4 years ago

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Paul Chaney, Consultant at The Social Media Handyman

One problem for me in using Google+ is that the social media management tool I use doesn't support it, which means I have to go to G+ to post to my profile. That's time I don't have to spend. However, once that gets sorted out via a more readily available API, it's a no-brainer.

almost 4 years ago

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Devon Gamble

I use Google+ hangouts to discuss movies. I have an on air chat for 15 minutes every tuesday and friday, followed by 30 minute public chats.

I started Hangouts in order to meet new people and get more fans on my page as an effort to get more Youtube reviews for my youtube show. It has worked pretty well, I started on air chats in order to have more content, and cover more in depth issues with some really interesting and passionate people in met.

So yeah, if you have any more questions about what I've done I would love to help, and of course feel free to join if you like movies! haha (shameless self promote! haha)

almost 4 years ago

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referencement naturel seo

I agree with you Anna, to me the use of Google plus isn't clear so far and the use is more complicated than the one on facebook.
I wish we can have more insights on the use we can make of all its services.

almost 4 years ago

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Justin Hill

I have been using G+ since July 2011 and have not looked back since. Via G+ and it's hangouts I've driven in Texas and sat in Africa. Seen under the ocean and looked into deep space. I've had my portrait painted and had lessons in photography. Messaged astronauts and conversed with scientists. Met a "Genie", two spies, a Diva and an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world ... all without having to leave my seat and above all I have made some great friends. I have over 15,000 following me due to my photography which has blown me away. Google Plus is easy to use. It's also what you want it to be and not like other Social Networks that give you no choice. At the end of the day it's up the the individual if they use or not but I'd hate everyone to miss out as I seriously think it's the best thing to happen to the internet for a very long time.

almost 4 years ago

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Caleb

I love G+ personally, but it's been difficult to get others (even myself, sometimes) on board for our brand. What benefit can we give on G+ that we aren't already providing on Facebook?

almost 4 years ago

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Nathan

What percentage of that 250m are from the Google Places to Google Pages cross over?

almost 4 years ago

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Seo Manchester

Thanks to share this all information here...

almost 4 years ago

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Larry Fournillier

I've been on Google+ for about 13 months and this great 'social layer' has afforded me the tremendous opportunity to present and produce a variety of Hangouts On Air cooking shows(http://bit.ly/QELNEQ). I'm also engaging heavily with a majority of my over 790+K followers, by initiating a Healthy Eating Program which will not only benefit my followers but the community at large. In summary, Google Plus is by far, the best thing to have come along the social networking landscape.

almost 4 years ago

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Martin Shervington

Great to meet you Heather!
I think you are spot on - hangouts are one of the most powerful of all Google+ applications. I have pointed some friends using them for business in the direction of your article.
Personally, I am finding my clients are getting more and more keen to learn how the Google+, as the future of Google, can help their business - with 'Pages' linking to Google Local being a very easy way to start as it gives an instant result, often with positive listing results as a consequence as well.
As it happens, I have done over 100 reviews now and believe local knowledge will 'socialise' the web for years to come.
Also, I have written a book on Google+ so am clearly committed but don't want to plug.
Please do let me know if I can help in any way.
All the best, Martin

almost 4 years ago

James Crawford

James Crawford, Managing Director at PR Agency One

I love Google+ and I use it heavily to market my business, but my verticals are marketing and technology, which G+ is strong in.

The trouble with most marketers is they get hung up on having some sort of page to manage and post stuff on when really the benefits / objectives of G+ are very broad.

almost 4 years ago

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Rick Noel

adoption rate along with increasing Google+ influences the Google search results making focus by marketers important to get early mover benefits. Patents from Google relative to authorship will likely be a key search signal for quality and involve Google+ as a key input.

I am personally active on Google plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/102083464455553020743/posts

and have a page for our company: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/109873080991223388331/109873080991223388331/posts

We also have +1 buttons integrated into our blog as these are important signals to Google, even beyond the Google Search, Plus Your World personalization which can be turned off in the advanced search options.

Thanks for sharing.

almost 4 years ago

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Choi

I want to get one of these, but my husband won’t give it to me!
, annoying

almost 4 years ago

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Mike

Google+ is very much clear it shouldnt get spam anyways, that is why it is not entertaining even self promotion unlike Facebook and Twitter doest it.

It is obvious that when Google+ has a feature that other Social media failed to have such as Google+ hangout and Google Circle Privacy, eventually the number of user will get increase.

over 3 years ago

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Richard Anderson

Hi I'm preparing a presentation for g+ and its benefits for brands and I'm struggling to get my head around how large brands with thousands of fans will be able to successfully segment. Do they have to view each fan to gauge which circle they should be in? Or Is there a simpler way? Thanks

over 3 years ago

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Roy Halladay

Hi I'm preparing a presentation for g+ and its benefits for brands and I'm struggling to get my head around how large brands with thousands of fans will be able to successfully segment. Do they have to view each fan to gauge which circle they should be in? Or Is there a simpler way? Thanks...

over 3 years ago

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