With the launch of Google’s latest much-hyped social network, companies lucky to get an invite were quick to jump on the bandwagon, only to find their profiles closed down a week later.
The reason? Google engineers are asking businesses for patience, saying they want to test the waters with individual users before diving into the murky ocean of brand advertising and digital marketing. Fair enough, as long as this means an optimized brand experience in the long run.
With a special brand-oriented Google+ product in the pipeline, Google can certainly not afford to leave out all those companies eager to market via the promising new social network. While all we can do now is sit and wait for Google to open the gates, let’s have a rough look at what it may have in store for SEO and digital marketing.
Information with a human face
Tech pundits have long reiterated that Google’s failed attempts at social media were due to its focus on information, which – they say – isn’t compatible with social interaction. By creating a new social media experience that is scalable, customizable and most importantly – people-centric - Google is certainly proving critics wrong.
All-encompassing and highly interactive, Google+ is sure to get a slice of the Facebook and Twitter dominated social media pie but its size will depend on how quickly the new social network embraces the foreign language internet. As non-English online usage begins to outstrip English, enabling people to create profiles in their preferred language may well be what will convince people to switch over from their existing social networks to Google+.
Power to the people
But let’s have a look at what makes Google+ different from existing social networks. For starters, it integrates the trademark features of all its competitors, albeit under different names. Google+’s circles – its most distinguishing feature – mean you can keep your communication with friends separate from your business contact exchange, while being able to follow people and share quick thoughts Twitter-style.
The power to filter contacts and curate the information flow for relevance will undoubtedly go down well with users who – as marketers know – appreciate being treated as individuals rather than as consumers.
Tackling information overload
Stream – Google’s equivalent to Facebook’s News Feed – lets you filter the updates coming from your different circles so that you don’t get bombarded with irrelevant information. And vice versa – you can direct feeds at people who’ll be interested, without spamming your contacts.
Streams are another example of Google’s people-centric approach, although it’s still too early to say how this could be harnessed for the purposes of digital marketing.
Sparks: the big SEO gold mine
This appears to be Google+’s most promising feature from an SEO point of view. Sparks are streams of regularly updated search results related to users’ interests. A simple comparison test shows that Spark-generated content is different from a traditional Google search, with highly ranked websites, and fresh and visual content receiving – for the time being – the most prominence.
It’ll be interesting to see how Google will fine-tune its new Spark algorithms and what link-building opportunities they will offer. By all means, this is something SEO people should watch out for.
Drawing a line between people and brands
Ever accepted a friend request from a company or a place on Facebook only to be bombarded with special offers and event invitations? Google+ is nipping this annoying trend in the bud. Google’s decision to consign brands to an as yet unidentified place shows just how emphatic the new social network is in its dedication to keep the social experience personal.
Not a good thing for brands which – naturally – like going where consumers are – but with Google+’s brand-oriented product in the pipeline, there’s a sleek new marketing platform to look forward to. Google engineers are, indeed, promising to build a business experience that will exceed that of consumer profiles.
What this means for social media marketers remains to be seen. There is already speculation that once ushered in, business ‘pages’ could be +1’d and followed, thus improving search results, which automatically translates into better brand exposure.
Until then, all you can do is apply to be one of the first brands to test the business accounts in the coming months…and by all means, reserve a slot in your marketing strategy for Google+.