Last night I received a Google+ invite from a Twitter acquaintance. As Brafton reported yesterday, Google+ is the company’s much awaited social network, and it stands to integrate users’ Google search and social experience. As a social marketer, my first impression is that it has potential to be just as important for social media interaction as Facebook.
As with Facebook, users setting up a Google+ profile can add photos and basic information, such as education and occupation history. Users can also share web content, and this creates a new social sharing platform for brands to gain visibility. From a personal networking perspective, it feels convenient having my news and the chat function right there side-by-side on the clean, simple home screen – also known as the Stream.
Aside from giving users instant chatting and posting options, Google+ has a few new features worth mentioning. In your offline social life, do you share everything with everyone you know? Probably not, right? With Google+, users can divide their contacts into different Circles and even customize posts to appear on the Streams of specific people or Circles.
Circles an excellent way to keep the social feed free from unnecessary clutter and maintain an online life that mirrors a personal social life. So far, it seems every bit as easy to use as Facebook Groups. From a marketing perspective, this feature could increase the likelihood that the right content will get shared with the right people among Google+ users’ social contacts.
Hangouts is a video chat function that allows up to 10 people to join one session at a time, similar to Skype. Here, Google’s got an edge – not all messaging functions on social networks allow for group chat. Plus, smart technology enables video switching, so the person speaking is most prominently featured on the video chat screen while he or she talks. People can also share content and videos while they chat.
These features are all good for users, and marketers might like Hangouts because Google encourages people to turn these video chats into “face-to-face” chats. Maybe some integration with Google Places listings down the road?
Then there’s Sparks – perhaps the feature I’ll use the most. It provides a constant feed of topics users might like based on what they add as interests. Let’s say you are a fan of funny cat videos. A simple keyword search in Sparks will provide results of news and videos that fit your interest in LOL cats. Once users make a search an “added interest,” it appears in the Spark part of their profile, so they can click a category to see what’s new at any time. Users can easily share a favorite result with your Google+ crowd, too.
Sparks adds a new content stream to Google+ users day-to-day internet searching that could ultimately help marketers gain exposure. By practicing relevant SEO, marketers with updated content that matches users’ Sparks categories could find new visitors to their branded content pages and encourage repeat visits.
To complement its Google+ social sharing project, Google is offering some new features via Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. If Google+ gains adoption, people who create their Google profiles might start using the +1 button more similarly to how consumers currently use the Like button – and Google’s new analytics reports offer plenty of +1 data. Google Webmaster Tools now includes a “+1 Metrics” section, providing data on how influential +1’s are within searches and even how +1’s affect clickthrough rates.
Even better, Google Analytics’ Social Plugin Tracking tool helps compare the impact of social media activity from +1’s, Facebook and Twitter, among other social sites. The tracking provides three reports:
- Social Engagement: provides behavior patterns such as bounce rate, page views, and how long users are actually on the site
- Social Actions: tracks how many actions are conducted on a company’s site
- Social Pages: compares pages to see which are getting more social interactions
Social media interaction is certainly on the rise, and with these new tracking elements businesses will have a chance to gain extra insight into their web traffic and social impact. Thank you Google!
What remains to be seen whether Google will redefine the social sharing experience – and marketers who start getting ready for a boom of Google profiles and +1 usage now stand to gain an early adopter’s advantage.