The big news in the social media space in the past couple of weeks has been the “soft launch” of Google + and speculation upon what this means in an increasingly social based online experience. As it stands, while Google is working out the kinks and gaining user feedback, the Google+ platform is almost exclusively based around personal connections and doesn’t offer an option for brands or organizations to participate, yet. Plans for a more business oriented Google+ are in the works as Google partners with iconic brands like Ford Motor Company to iron out the features that will best suit the needs of companies as they venture into the latest frontier of social media marketing.
With that said, we can take a look into what the future may look like for businesses on Google+ by examining it’s unique features and how they could be utilized from a brand perspective. Here are some of the features that stand out on Google+ and the impact that they could have in changing the way businesses interact with their customers and colleagues through social media:
- Circles: Google+ has made it incredibly easy for users to decide who they want to share their updates with by segmenting their connections based on the relationships that they have. Grouping connections such as Family, Friends, Acquaintances, or common interests allows you to share only the information that you feel is pertinent to that group.
The carry-over of “Circles” to a brand marketing initiative would allow a company to further granulize demographics for particular product lines or message styles. Fragmenting a brand’s connections into those specific demographic groups can bring another level of personalization to brand-consumer communication. For instance, if a retailer sold men’s and women’s clothing, previous social outlets would require that you target your messages to only one group at a time, or risk diluting your message on that platform by attempting to appeal to both groups at once. The ability to share a brand message only with the targeted group will allow you to utilize a single platform and still maintain targeted communication with separate groups of consumers.
- +1: We all know that many decisions, buying decisions in particular, are drastically influenced by the opinions and advice of our friends, family, and colleagues. With the integration of +1 into webpages, search results, ads, and the Google+ platform, social discovery of products looks to be expanding far beyond the traditional social network. As the Google+ user base grows, you will begin to see small cues pop up all around you in the online space with your friend’s suggestions of products, companies, and websites without the need to visit a social network to see these recommendations. Google has had the capability for displaying search results shared by your social connections for some time now, but the integration of +1 recommendations into this system is taking a huge step forward in driving social discovery of products to the next level.
- Hangouts: Webinar events have been in use by companies as online meeting tools, training seminars, and business introductions for years, but haven’t seen much use in outward facing communication as a whole. The addition of the Hangout feature in Google+ may prove to change that by way of allowing online events to occur in a casual, open environment by simply inviting the connections in your Circles to a Hangout event discussing a specific topic. There is a huge amount of room for creativity in how to utilize this video connection possibility on a large scale, allowing you to easily put a face on your organization and join in a one-on-one conversation with your customer.
- Integration of the entire online experience: One thing that can be said about Google, is that they are constantly expanding into new areas of the online experience. What was originally just a place to search for things online, has now expanded into e-mail, instant messaging, photo storage and sharing, video, search marketing, blogging, and an entire suite of business tools that can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Current social networks, Facebook or Twitter for example, require a user to log in to their service with the specific intent of participating in a social environment. As the Google+ platform becomes integrated with all of Google’s services, a user no longer needs to visit a specific site. As long as they are logged in to their Google account, which is constant for most Gmail users, Google+ will be actively available throughout the majority of their experience online whether they realize it or not. Google is pressing for this to become an online lifestyle rather than a conscious destination, allowing greater opportunity for exposure throughout a broader timeframe.
The internet is an ever growing and changing atmosphere, and there is no doubt that the Google+ available to users today will expand and shift as its user base grows, feedback is obtained, and the outlines of how businesses can participate in it are drawn. Once again, this is just a small look into the future possibilities of how brands may be able to interact with users, but as more information is revealed, we will certainly continue to be on the cutting edge of strategy in developing the tactical value of this new social platform for our clients and businesses in general.