Many speculated that Google Plus would flop because it could not be the new Facebook. Christian Oestlien, a Google Plus product manager, did not silence the fanfare when he told companies “to hold off” from using Google Plus because, in his own words, “frankly we know our product as it stands is not optimally suited to their needs…How users communicate with each other is different from how they communicate with brands, and we want to create an optimal experience for both.”* It seems that the engineers that were working to optimize Google Plus for brands have been hard at work, as the newest updates are well suited to businesses looking to connect with current customers and reach new ones.
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Header Images and Profile Photos
Google Plus recently introduced new header images and profile photo updates. The profile image is now positioned on the top right of a profile for increased visibility, and it also appears larger. Instead of having five photos on the top of the profile, users can now choose to have a header image as their template. This image is similar to the banner on the new Facebook Timeline. The images can be entirely promotional or informational. For instance, brands can have images of their new products and are welcome to promote a campaign or call to action. None of the restrictions that apply to Facebook cover images apply to Google Plus. Some brands are opting to differentiate their profile image, where the brand’s logo will usually go, from their header image. Other brands are connecting the images by having the same background. For instance, Bravo has the same color background in its profile photo and header, which makes the images appear seamless, and connected. Since Google Plus is a social and engaged community, there are many ways to get creative; some brands have opted to highlight a follower in their header image every week.
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Taking its cue from Twitter, Google Plus’ trending feature is now on the right-hand sidebar of a user’s home screen. It can be found on the “Explore” icon. The more prominently positioned feature means that more Google users will see it. This is a golden opportunity for companies to showcase their content, and should be a part of a brand’s content marketing strategy. According to Brian Clark from Copyblogger, the success of content marketing is because “people love to share content on social networks.”** Clark goes on to say that Google Plus will likely go on to be bigger than Facebook and Twitter because “it’s been more accurately called a ‘sharing’ platform.” The trend upgrade will exponentially increase the sharing of content on Google Plus. Not only is it an opportunity to create and promote greater content, but it is also an opportunity to be part of the conversation and the community.
Unlike other social media platforms, creating and sharing content is not the only way to engage followers on Google Plus. Similar to the offline corporate world, Brian Clark explains that an audience must also “know, like and trust”*** an online brand’s personality. Google Plus Hangouts can literally put a face to a company. This personal and intimate interaction is a key way to building an online following that knows, likes and trusts a brand. Instead of scripted Hangouts, Google Plus’ update allows users to join Hangouts that are going on live and in real time, on the new Hangouts page; these live Hangouts are similar to the ones that occur on YouTube. Companies should choose to interact in Hangouts where their target audience frequents. It is a unique opportunity to promote without having to sell anything. Brands should also consider hosting a Hangout, be it a Q&A session, product or informational webinar etc. This is an amazing networking opportunity, an easy way to become an authority in the industry and an organic way of interacting with prospects and customers.
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Photo Albums and Videos
A picture is still worth a thousand words. What else could explain the popularity of Pinterest or YouTube? Google Plus has enhanced its photo and video features. There are no more borders around photos and videos, and the new layout allows for larger images and screens. When a user scrolls over an album, all of the photos in the album will appear in an image box over the photo. Companies can create interesting photo album presentations, share YouTube videos that are relevant to the industry and even share recorded self-hosted Hangouts.
Engagement on Google Plus means sharing or +1′ing the content. Instead of having to navigate several pages, companies can now see who is sharing their content with one click. Brands can go to any self-published posts and click the plus sign (“+”) or “Share” icons. Clicking one of these icons will display the name and image of everyone who has engaged with the post in some way.
Contrary to the beliefs of some, Google Plus is not the new Facebook. Google Plus is the best of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and Google. As these updates demonstrate, Google Plus is here to stay by making good on its promise to make Google Plus more useful for businesses. Plus, it has the power of Google behind it. Google Plus is quickly emerging as a social media heavyweight. Brands should expect many more updates that are focused on helping brands better connect with their target audience.
So what do you think of the Google Plus updates? Will your company be using Google Plus to more effectively reach current and potential customers? Did you know that having an active Google + account can improve your website’s SEO?
*** Source: http://www.copyblogger.com/know-like-trust/