Are you using Google Plus to promote your business? Google’s social network is a relative late-comer to the arena, making it ‘one social network too many’ for some online marketers and their customers, who are already overwhelmed with the amount of content coming their way via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the rest.
But let’s not forget that Google, as the biggest media company in the world, with $37.9 billion in revenues in 2011 alone, has enough firepower and resources to ensure that Plus remains relevant if they want it to.
They’ve already been on a mission to drive as many of their existing customers to it as possible, and make it the ‘social glue’ that joins all of their services together.
This includes integration with Gmail, of which there are at least 425 million active users, and of course Google search. Every time you send an email to a fellow Gmail user the person who receives it will see your G+ profile picture.
Likewise, with Google Authorship, content creators just need to link their sites up with G+ in order to have their faces appear in search results. For now at least, this gives them an advantage over the results without pictures, helps them to stand out and makes people more likely to click (people prefer to deal with real people than faceless corporations, after all).
Equally, with a snippet of code, authors can claim authorship of their guest posts on other sites too. And authorship is likely to have additional influence in future, for example in the new ‘in-depth articles’ results.
Any online marketer worth their salt will see the potential benefits of being active on Google Plus. Let’s look at a few more advantages that the platform has for online retail marketing.
Connecting with Influencers
Whilst a lot of people (400 million of us in fact) have automatically set up their G+ profile because they have a Gmail account, it’s still not become as mainstream as Facebook and Twitter, with only 1 in 4 of those registered being active there on a daily basis.
However, rather than being a negative, this actually presents online marketers with an opportunity. In the early days of Twitter, it was mainly used by the more tech-savvy users, and a lot of those people owned successful businesses and websites. As the number of Twitter users has continued to grow, the more followers those people have attracted and as a general rule, the more influential they’ve become.
Google Plus is where Twitter was a few years back – the people who are most active now tend to be tech-savvy, influential early adopters who are interested in genuinely engaging with like-minded people and building mutually-beneficial business relationships.
This gives business owners a great opportunity to connect with influencers as well as peers and build good relationships with them, especially as conversation seems to be flowing on G+ thanks to the ability to post more in-depth comments (unlike Twitter) and the fact that it’s easier to connect with people you don’t know personally (unlike Facebook). Those people who start to build a solid following now will reap the rewards as Google Plus grows in popularity.
Okay, so there’s no guarantee that Google Plus is going to be a success in the long-term, but with Facebook and Twitter making a lot of changes to their services, there’s bound to be a few people who want to jump ship, and Google Plus could just be where they go next.
Perhaps the most exciting opportunity when it comes to ecommerce and online retail marketing is Google Plus Communities. Whether you start your own from scratch or tap into the existing communities on the site, you can easily share information and content with a targeted group of users with specific interests that are directly relevant to your business’s niche.
Every time you post on G+ you can choose whether to post publicly, to any combination of your circles, or to a community you run or are a member of. You can also dive into the communities that are relevant to your niche and offer helpful advice and answers to people’s questions, which will make you stand out as an expert and attract more followers.
It’s important however not to spam these communities or your circles with constant promotional updates. Share useful, timely, and most importantly, highly relevant content about your chosen niche on your ecommerce site and you will draw people in without making them feel your only agenda is to get money out of them.
No-one is entirely sure what the effect of +1s on your content have on search engines, but it certainly can’t hurt. Selling advertising on search results is still Google’s primary business by a large margin, and as it’s clear they are committed to the growth of G+, it’s likely the two will be increasingly integrated in the future. This means that getting +1s on your content can only be of benefit to your search results in the long-term.
In addition, if someone clicks the +1 button on your content, it will now have a good chance of showing up in the feed of anyone who follows them, in a similar way to Facebook likes. And with Search Plus Your World, Google is pushing personalized search and +1s and G+ connections will definitely affect this.
Jon Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb found (to his displeasure) that Google+ posts that included an extract from one of his articles were outranking the original post. That’s because unlike Twitter and Facebook posts, G+ posts are counted more like individual blog posts. They are editable, can be as long as required, and if people follow links or link back to them, they can be ranked higher, just like an individual web page. So it makes sense to make sure you link to your ecommerce blog regularly.
Google Plus is proving to be a popular medium for images, in part thanks to their beautifully designed, highly visual apps for iOS and Android and features like instant upload and auto-awesome which is a way of instantly generating gifs from a selection of photos taken of the same subject. These features are making it ultra-easy to share photos.
Just as Facebook has pages for businesses and other organizations, so does Google Plus. Anyone with a profile on Google Plus can create one or more business pages.
If your retail business has a physical presence as well as an online store you will also want to sign up to Google Plus Local. This will mean you will show up in Google Search when people in your area search for products in your niche.
Hangouts are Google’s answer to Skype, but has a lot more features and so are very useful for brands. “Hangouts on Air” is a great way to connect with your customers and audience, and you can invite everyone who follows your page or profile.
As well as being broadcast live at the time of recording, your Hangout will automatically be saved to YouTube for those who are unable to attend live. It’s a great way of creating buzz around a new product or just to create a feeling of community around your business.
Google Plus might take a while to get used to, but it’s obvious from the many useful features that it offers, how beneficial it can be to online retail marketers.
Given the increasing importance of Google’s foray into social networking on all of their other services, in particular search, the big question is, if you want long-term success for your brand, can you afford not to pay Google Plus more attention?