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Google+ is never far away from controversy or a heated discussion, be it what affect it has on organic search rankings or whether or not the 359m members (May 2013) actually use the platform or not.
Whatever your thoughts on Google+ as a platform the one area you can’t deny is the improvement from brand participation and content generation.
A few months ago the post on do the top 20 US retailers care about Google+ implied that the big retail brands out there don’t create enough content or receive enough engagement to warrant sufficient investment, which inevitably leads to a poor user experience.
While in theory the top 20 US retailers 'should' understand how to use Google+ and reap the benefits, looking at the summary it’s clear that some of them don’t.
That’s not to say they don’t care about the platform, more likely the potential value has not been demonstrated properly or what future benefits in organic search considered.
1. H&M (3m followers)
Generally high-street retailers seemed to have grasped the concept of Google+ with full force and H&M is no exception.
The secret to its success lies in producing regular unique high quality images, albums and videos around styles and product sets. New content is posted up to four time times a day and engagement levels such as comments, plus ones and shares rival similar numbers you’d see on the Facebook profile.
Key win: the images are custom built for Google+ and its clear the brand has found a style that works for users to generate the most interaction.
One area H&M has missed out on is linking up the YouTube profile to Google+ which is another added benefit of being active on the platform.
If you connect both together then activity is shared between the two sites i.e. if your friends like a video by a brand on Google+ then you’ll see that in YouTube social recommendations feed.
2. ASOS (1.8m followers)
ASOS was certainly one of the first retail brands to really start populating Google+ with bespoke fashion content and their follower count and post engagement is reflective of this.
Unlike H&M, ASOS has linked their YouTube account and Google+ together so will be taking advantage of that and seeing higher engagement on their videos.
Key win: the use of animated GIFs has worked well. It’s a format that really encourages sharing and stands out from both Twitter and Facebook who do not support that kind of format.
3. Topman (850,000 followers)
Topman updates its profile with three posts a day including a good mix of product sets, high quality images and links to editorial content from Topman Magazine offering N opportunity to reach a wider audience by increasing their topics and use of hashtags.
Key win: Topman runs a monthly incentive strategy called “Google+ VIP” which rewards followers with prizes for participating on the platform and sharing their content.
It has to be noted that it’s against the Google+ guidelines to offer gifts in direct return for shares and +1’s – I would guess the concept is ok, judging on the number of months it’s been running.
Topshop has a similar strategy to Topman but with a higher number of followers (1.4m) along with a similar content strategy.
Firstly, it cross promotes other social profiles regularly such as updates as to what’s happening on twitter and Pinterest helping increase cross following users.
Secondly every morning the 'Daily Fix' is posted showing a simple outfit look with a commercial link to the products each receiving a good number of plus ones, comments and shares.
4. Uniqlo (654,000 Followers)
Uniqlo posts content on a regular basis and publish most of the formats available to brands. The content is far less product-focused than some of the others, less of the hard sell and more targeted around its customers lifestyles which again receives great levels of engagement from all over the world.
Key win: Uniqlo posts great photo albums based on sporting and cultural events which are time sensitive and relevant to users search behaviours – like Wimbledon, supported by Novak Djokovic who is their global brand ambassador.
5. Farfetch (56,000 followers)
Being fully transparent, I work for Farfetch as Head of SEO and am also responsible for the Google+ strategy too.
I’ve included our brand in here as there are certain content types we are promoting which deliver genuine engagement and conversions, and I wanted to share what we've learned.
Like many of the other brands listed in the post before us we post regularly on Google+, between two and four posts per day over the business week and two per day over the weekend.
We find that animated GIFs do particularly well when showcasing products and trigger more shares than any other format at our disposal.
Unlike any of the other brands mentioned we also setup and run a community page on the theme of 'Fashion Inspiration'. This provides an additional layer of communication and engagement to users we might not normally have access to which helps build up follower numbers.
Key win: To celebrate Farfetch’s 5th Birthday we carried out 5 Google Hangouts on air over five days on a number of different topics such as How to Make a Pinata and How to Make a Play-doh Watermelon Punch – as a result of running these Hangouts our site received a 45% increase in visits from Google+ with conversions.
As a company we’re still building up our following on Google+ but we’re now in a position where the activity generates around 400 visits per month with a conversion rate of about 1%.
An interesting statistic from our analytics data is that users from Google+ spend much longer viewing content on Farfetch than other social platforms.
Noting that Google+ only delivers a very small percentage of visits versus the others, either way it shows that users are engaged with the brand and have a genuine interest in retail and purchasing when browsing on Google+.
While these are only a selection of brands that are regularly producing good unique content there are many more out there and while not all brands may be giving Google+ the attention it deserves, the ones that do have a definite advantage.