If your company has just launched itself into the social media universe and you are still grappling with the basics of Twitter and Facebook, you may find this topic somewhat arcane. However, you may be surprised to learn that over half a billion people have already signed up for Google+, of which 100 million or so are actively engaged. Of course, this figure is less than half of that for Facebook, but I fear a comparison here may be as appropriate as comparing apples and pears.
You see, one of the (many) reasons why Facebook has so far failed to make any real money, except for its nominal share value, is all due to data. Google started its life as a search engine, certainly not the first of its kind, but rapidly becoming such. As a result of its undisputed primacy it has managed to capitalise on a mountain of extremely high quality data. Let’s face it, every time you search for something in Google you are parting with a tiny amount of information about yourself. If you aggregated all this date you would come up with a pretty accurate profile of each user; imagine how valuable this data is from a commercial perspective.
Facebook on the other hand started its life as a basic social interaction tool. Yes, there is now much more than that, but think back to the days when this network was competing with the likes of Bebo and you’ll see what I mean. Back then, data quality wasn’t exactly its priority.
This legacy is the reason why so few businesses see any value in advertising on Facebook, as even with today’s latest improvements it’s still much more difficult to target users accurately and with a degree of certainty (how many people do you know who have bothered to create totally accurate Facebook profiles of themselves?). Worse still, many profiles are fakes, although when it comes to groups and pages these days Facebook offers greater added value.
Imagine then if you took the desirability of Facebook groups and grafted it into the high quality data environment of Google; you’d have a truly winning formula. Which is exactly how Google+ Communities came to be created. It is indeed highly surprising how few companies have so far failed to wake up to this incredible opportunity, and I selfishly hope fewer will continue to do so for a little while longer, to allow innovators like ourselves to gain further primacy.
But Google+ Communities are more than mere discussion pages. They can be built as private environments (so replacing intranets) and articles can be published and shared on +Communities by simply using the +1 button. In addition, +Communities can integrate with existing advanced tools, such as video conferencing (Hangouts). Imagine extending the conversation from a few lines of text to a fully fledged video conference and you’ll get the picture, literally! For a savvy brand marketer Google+ Communities are therefore a godsend.
Some critics claim that there is too little traffic on Google+ anyway, but in my opinion this is because in the other channels it’s much easier to create ‘noise’. For example think of the number of people who literally abuse Twitter by posting totally insignificant information like ‘I am having a coffee’, or ‘On the train home’ and similar. Given that everyone is aware of how powerful Google is it’s therefore less likely that you’d wish to make such trivia public, hence conversations on Google+ become of higher value. This aspect, connected to the inherent data quality and resilience, create a truly virtuous cycle, elevating Google+ Communities to a much higher level of commercially attractive propositions.
So, while you can be forgiven for not knowing much about Google+, you will be unwise to dismiss +Communities, if you are serious about online content and advanced engagement. You can see for yourself. Just check out a site like the Advances in Medicine and Biology +Community, a thriving virtual space with over 20,000 members and discussions threads neatly arranged into relevant topics. What are you waiting for?