Where does Google+ fit into a marketing strategy?

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If you’re a young professional working for a startup, chances are, you’ve been tasked with managing their social media presence at one point or another. Of course, some companies have entire teams dedicated to handling social networks, but the reality is, for a lot of small businesses, boutique agencies and micro-enterprises – social media can get passed like a hot potato.

Well, at least, that was the mentality. Over the past five years, we’ve seen a distinct shift in social media strategies. Rather than ignoring it (hint: bad idea), or hoping that an intern will take care of it (maybe not the best idea either), companies are hiring communications experts, training their employees, or outsourcing their content marketing altogether so that they can better focus on their products or services.

Depending on what your company’s social media plan is, the first thing to stress is that you have one. You need to have one. But, as anyone who’s made a New Year’s resolution knows, having a plan in place is different than actually following through with it. That’s why your gym is empty in February, but your gym offers “deals” around New Years that lock you in for 6 months. They know (and if we’re being honest, we should know better by now too) that regardless of our best intentions, life happens.

But that’s not you! You’ve got your plan, you’re committed, and now you’re ready to put it into action. Then it hits you: there are a lot of social networks out there. Are they all necessary to your brand? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google Plus are all staples for the modern business portfolio. The first four offer significantly different ways to present your company’s platform to potential consumers. The real draw is the vast demographic spread across the networks — using all four means you can appeal to a larger clientele base that ranges all the way from teens to CEOs.

So where does Google+ fit in? It doesn’t have the same time-sink status as its behemoth of a cousin Facebook does. According to a 2013 Nielsen study, the average visitor spent only 6 minutes and 47 seconds on Google+ in one month, while the average Facebook visitor spent a whopping 6 hours and 44 minutes on the site.

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On the other hand, sites like Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn offer links to key demographics that your business might be trying to woo. For example, 30 per cent of all Internet users have Instagram accounts, but the more interesting part for you might be who is making those accounts. A 2015 Pew Research Centre report says that of those 30 per cent, more than half are between the ages of 18 and 29. At the other end of the age spectrum, LinkedIn offers a channel to connect with a different demographic — over 64 per cent of the network’s users are over the age of 30.

Then there’s Google+. With the lack of user engagement and a niche target audience (73 per cent are males over the age of 34), it seems hard to justify keeping Google+ on your update roster. After all, time is money. Before this year, there was one huge reason to use Google+: search engine optimization. Google’s search function would push Google+ content up further in the list, meaning that for small, local businesses, simply using the network was like a free ad buy.

Unfortunately, earlier this year, Google exec Bradley Horowitz confirmed that the SEO benefits of Google+ were now defunct. In fact, so were a lot of the network’s features. According to Horowitz, that’s because “you’re about to see a huge shift in what Plus is becoming.” Google Photos and Streams, two aspects of the Google+ platform, are now the primary focus of Google’s development team.

With that in mind, the entire concept of what Google+ is supposed to be is shifting as well. Perhaps the brightest silver lining for businesses is the addition of “Collections,” which is in essence a Pinterest-like way to group content based on topics. According to Horowitz, the Google+ premise is about becoming a “place where people engage around their shared interests, with the content and people who inspire them.”
So what does that mean for your company’s social media strategy? It’s tempting to cut Google+ from your social media team, but it might be a bit premature. With Collections finally ramping up on Plus, there are more engaged, active communities than ever before on the network. The best part is that now they’re forming groups of likeminded individuals themselves. They’re connecting to each other organically under the banner of topics that they share interests in — which, depending on your business or your brand, it might be really beneficial to be part of.

While other businesses are jumping off the Google+ ship without the SEO benefits, sticking around to navigate this unchartered territory could seriously pay off for your business in the end. With all of the reorganizing happening at Google HQ, there are still 300 million consumers logging into Google+ each month to connect and share with each other. Removing your business from the network now means losing the chance to build relationships with these consumers from the start. If you want to convince these prospective customers why they should go with you – then you need to make sure you’re around to have the conversation.

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Mike Valenti

About Mike Valenti

Skiing, content and tomfoolery are my three main ingredients in life.

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