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Overcoming initial doubts about whether the world needed another social network, in just 15 months Google+ has grown from nothing to having more than 250m users.

On average users are on G+ 12 minutes a day, which is just shy of Facebook's average of 14 minutes a day and more than 1m brands now have G+ pages.

It has been helped in no small part by the fact that a strong presence on G+ has SEO benefits, but its continued growth is still testament to the fact that the network offers brands methods of communicating with consumers that can't be found on Facebook or Twitter.

The most obvious example is hangouts, which give brands a unique way of speaking to consumers face-to-face.

We recently trialled hangouts ourselves for the first time in a live chat about email marketing, and is certainly something we will be looking to do more of in future.

So with more brands starting to see the benefits of G+, I decided to compile a list of brands that had been quick to embrace the social network and are reaping the rewards...

Cadbury

Social is central to Cadbury’s digital marketing strategy and it was among the first brands to begin experimenting with G+.

Social media manager Jerry Daykin, who previously shared with us his top five best practice tips for Google+, posts daily updates that keep fans engaged by asking questions or teasing new products.

Cadbury also makes good use of hangouts, including one to celebrate reaching 500,000 followers and another with its Olympic brand ambassador Rebecca Adlington.

Daykin said the brand page has added 150,000 new followers since it started hosting hangouts, although part of the will obviously be down to other factors.

Red Bull

Red Bull’s G+ page is consistent with the rest of its marketing in that it focuses more on a lifestyle choice than the product itself.

It posts regular updates that include images and videos of extreme sports and music with only occasional references to the Red Bull energy drink.

The posts consistently receive up to 50 comments from the page’s 1.2m followers.

Ford

Ford made a big push with social marketing in the past 12 months, one example being its new social sales tool that integrates with Facebook and YouTube pages.

It has also been quick to adopt G+ and has attracted more than 1.5m followers.

Updates are posted every few days, including news from motor shows, images of Ford cars and details of its charity work.

More recently the most popular posts have been ones that reward fans in some way. For instance, it posted a special Ford badge that followers can add to their own G+ pages and reshared images of fans posing with their vehicles.

H&M

Google has flagged up H&M as a poster child for how brands should be using G+, and for good reason.

It posts regular updates focusing on inspirational fashion content such as videos and images, and invites followers to share their experiences and opinions.

It then responds to and shares post from it followers to build a dialogue and keep people engaged.

H&M achieves an average of 72 +1s per post, 11 reshares and 22 comments. The most popular posts are those that involve the brand’s top collections with Victoria Beckham, Versace and Marni.

But more importantly, Google says that H&M’s AdWords campaigns achieved a 22% increase in CTR thanks to its G+ social extensions.

Mashable

Tech blog Mashable has been on G+ almost since it launched and credits the social network among its top 10 sources of referral traffic.

It posts several updates each day - though this is obviously easier for a publisher than for a retail brand - and since adding the G+ badge to the Mashable homepage has seen its G+ page audience increase by 38%.

Mashable also makes use of hangouts to chat to its followers face-to-face and even allowed its fans to help design its G+ page.

ASOS

ASOS has an excellent social presence so it’s no surprise to see that it has clocked up more than 1.1m followers.

The fashion site posts regular updates – though not daily like its Facebook page – featuring videos and image of product ideas and offers.

Surprisingly few of the updates include questions or encouragement for followers to interact, but they still achieve a good number of comments and +1s.

Pepsi

Pepsi uses G+ to promote its Live For Now marketing campaigns, posting video and images of popstars and summer scenes interspersed with the occasional Pepsi can.

More than 560,000 people have added the drinks brand to their circles.

Interestingly, the music videos tend to get fewer comments and shares than posts that encourage followers to answers questions or give their opinions.

Ocado

According to a case study on the IAB’s website, Ocado first joined G+ as a way of improving its search campaigns. And it worked - as a result of adding social extensions CTR on its search ads increased by 30%.

Ocado is another brand that drives fan engagement using hangouts. It used an existing Great British Chefs initiative to create a live event where the chefs cooked for customers.

Overall the hangouts achieved 167k ‘engaged views’ and the number of views on the Ocado YouTube channels increased from 50k to 230k in one week.

The brand is now planning more hangouts as a way of engaging its 80,000 followers.

ESPN

People love to talk about sports, so social media is the perfect forum to promote a sports brand. ESPN has more than 2m followers and posts several images each day from various sporting events.

Engagement tends to be high with posts frequently attracting more than 100 comments and several hundred shares.

Samsung

In contrast to Apple’s decision to largely shun social media, Samsung clearly sees some value in using social to engage with its customers.

It has several official G+ pages, including a Samsung USA account that has 770,000 followers.

In recent weeks a majority of the posts have involved a competition in which schools can win $1m of Samsung products, but previously they were focused on Galaxy Note and the Olympics.

There has been a noticeable drop off in engagement with the competition posts.

David Moth

Published 9 October, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1676 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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@stuartflatt

Same old, same old.

How about looking at pages of smaller organisations that more of us can relate to? I imagine a huge percentage of people reading this won't be working brands of the size and of public awareness?

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Stuart We're appealing to a wide range of readers, some of whom will be interested in this. In this post, we wanted to present some good examples, as well as showing some stats on how well or otherwise these pages have worked.

I think smaller retailers can learn from the big guys, and vice versa.

That said, I like your idea of looking at how smaller businesses are using G+ so watch this space.

Btw - I did publish a post on using G+ Local today, which is aimed at helping smaller businesses.

http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/10850-why-businesses-should-be-using-google-local

over 3 years ago

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David Quaid

Nice post - it will be interesting to see these brands expand as Google ads (dripfeeds) more custom features...

I think small businesses should ignore what big, ubiquitous brands do because they cannot copy from them.

These brands spend a fortune with off-line and online advertising. They can get TV-Network Quality content and put it into Facebook and G+ - businesses can't do this.

If most brands measured internal costs + media + agency, CPC in Social Media acquisition would be in excess of $10. And that's without even measuring what goes into the funnel or makes a sale.

over 3 years ago

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GrumpyOldSeo

We all signed up for Google Plus, didn't we? It was a novelty. Cute little circles etc. Just a few months later, we realised nobody uses it. Google Plus is a ghost town. Just the latest (what is it their 5th or 6th attempt now?) failure at social from Google. Active users? What does that mean? Just look around or ask people. Nobody is using Google Plus. The average Google Plus post is shared by 1 person, just ONE. (FB etc average at least 3 times as much sharing). Even Google's own emloyees admitted it was doomed. See Steve Yegge comments, for example. Google is not social.

over 3 years ago

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Adam

Unsurprising that Mashable does so well but I like Red Bull's concept of associating a lifestyle and hobbies rather than just plugging themselves all the time.

over 3 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Even as a small business you can find great inspiration with checking out these brands on Google+. Whats possible for them is usually possible for everyone else: hangouts, events, competitions, photo galleries etc.

When you look at the likes of Cadbury the majority of their social media efforts are put into Google+ because its a very visual and engaging platform.

Google+ is not a ghost town, it is one of the most interactive and discussion focused social networks around at the moment.

It's also simple to manage, you can post to different groups (circles) easily. And the data you can get from Google Analytics and Google+ Ripples is too useful to ignore.

over 3 years ago

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Darvinder

If these brands see the benefit of G+, then how come many of these do not even have a link to their G+ page on their homepage?

over 3 years ago

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