In the two years since Google+ launched, the service has been the subject of ridicule from those who said the service would never be as popular or used as much as Facebook. Early this year, a comedian on NPR joked about Google’s Immortality Project by saying if Google ever found the secret to immortality, no one would know because it would be announced on Google+. While Google+ has yet to become as ubiquitous as Facebook, the data on the network clearly shows a platform on the rise. The time has come to stop laughing. As business owners and marketers finalize their marketing plans for the next year, they should seriously consider adding Google+ to their social media assets.
For all the jokes people make about Google+, it hasn’t stopped people from using it. Facebook has the second highest number of users behind Facebook (70 percent of internet users have Facebook account compared to the 50 percent who have Google+ accounts). In terms of monthly visits, Google+ dominates with 1.2 billion monthly visits (compared to 800 million and 400 million for Facebook and Twitter, respectively).
Any discussion about Google+ statistics must state that numbers are somewhat inflated because all Gmail users have an account and using Gmail counts as visiting Google+. This isn’t entirely unfair because when using Gmail, users can see the recent posts from other Google+ users on the right banner of the website, and on the left site, users can chat with friends and start Hangouts. And in actuality, Facebook’s number for active users are equally inflated. Even if a user only uses an app on their phone that requires a Facebook login, using that app counts as visit to Facebook for monthly user counts (anything that requires a Facebook login counts toward the total). All the same, the fact remains that people don’t use the social networking functions of Google+ as extensively as they do Facebook. But as users grow more accustomed to using Google+, people will being to use the social networking functions more often. But the social media side of Google+ isn’t all that marketers should care about.
Another thing that businesses need to consider is that an active Google+ profile boosts SEO efforts. According to Alexandra Jacopetti of Rocket Post, “If your business has 100 followers with active engagement, your Google search engine results position can improve by 14 spots.” This is reason enough for marketers to add Google+ buttons to their content and to create a page for their business. Additionally, Google+ recently introduced hashtags. Not just for the posts, but as a possible query in searches in America and Canada. Now if people search for #marketing, they will get relevant search engine results and on the right banner, there will be posts on Google+ that contain that tag. That’s an invaluable service for SEO marketers that can’t be duplicated by Twitter and Facebook.
Google+ also has features no other social network has that can be excellent tools for marketing. A key example is Google Hangouts. This free app allows users video chat with up to 10 people at once. The conversations can be private, viewable to selected parties, or even air them on YouTube. BakeSpace, a food community and recipe search site, gained 360,000 people in its Google+ circles after hosting 40 hangouts, compared to its 14,000 Facebook “likes.” They have continued to use the tactic and now have 960,000 people in the Google+ circle.
As one might imagine, using Google+ is beneficial for a content marketing strategy as well. Blog authors who are on Google+ get a bonus for being the content authors. For one, the content will look different on search engine results (containing a headshot, and some bio information) and it will link to Google+ profile for the author. Readers can also search specifically for more content from the author “Content linked via Google+ Authorship establishes credibility, increases content reach, and improves search engine rankings – all resulting in greater exposure,” wrote Jacopetti.
Using Google+ is also important for business owners who wish to stay ahead of the competition. According to a 2013 report, 40 percent of marketers are already using Google+; 70 percent said they wanted to learn more about Google+ marketing, and two-thirds said they would increase their Google+ efforts in the near future. Business owners who continue to sit on the sidelines as their competitors reap the benefits of using Google+ that were mentioned before put their organization at a serious disadvantage. Anyone who thinks that using Google+ for marketing is funny will soon find out the joke’s on them.