ne of the most frequent questions I get these days is, “What’s this Google+ thing I’m hearing about?” or “Should my business have a Google+ page?” I’ve been paying attention to Google+ for more than a year, watching it carefully to see how it evolves and grows and reading dozens of blogs about it. The consensus many social media professionals have, including myself, is that Google+ is a force to be reckoned with. It’s early, it’s cutting edge…and you want to be on that leading edge with a Google+ account for your business.
What Is Google+?
Google+ is Google’s attempt to break into the social network arena. It’s similar to both Facebook and Twitter in many ways, but also unique in that it has usability that the others don’t. It’s not likely to replace either Facebook or Twitter; there’s room for all in social media land. The competition is actually going to make each of them better because they’ll have to adapt, evolve, innovate or die. I believe they’ll all do that, and not only survive but do well. Google just happens to believe they’ll do it better, and they have the bully pulpit of the world’s largest search engine to back that up.
Circles and Sparks
Rather than “Likes,” “Fans” or “Followers,” Google+ has “Circles.” Circles allow you to group friends in different areas and label them as high school friends, work acquaintances, family, businesses or whatever. It’s a unique and easy way to communicate to whomever you want, and perhaps more importantly, to not have some people see what may be meant only for others.
Google+ also has what is known as “Sparks,” or things that interest you that you set up in your profile. Google+ will automatically push content to you based on those interests. Each interest area gets its own Spark designation and gives you links to articles, photos and videos related to your interests. It’s a feature that regular users rave about.
Google+ has a video chat feature called “Hangouts” that allows you to do video calls to people in your Circles. There is also “Huddles,” an online chat feature much like one you may have used with AOL, Skype or ICQ. The big difference is that it can be a group chat where all in a particular Circle can join. There are Android-based cell phone apps for this, too.
Facebook now has just short of one billion users, of which more than 550 million are active daily via their cell phones. Believe it or not, about 81 percent of Facebook’s subscribers are from outside the U.S. and Canada. That stat amazed me. Twitter has more than 200 million subscribers, with 100 million of them being active users who log in at least once per day. Google+ is expected to hit 400 million users by the end of 2012. Unlike Facebook, the majority of Google+ users are from the U.S.
But total users are only part of the story. It initially took Facebook 852 days to reach 10 million users (that’s 2.3 years). It took Twitter 780 days to reach that mark. It took Google+ only 16 days to reach 10 million users!
Does participation in Google+ enhance your website’s rankings? The answer isn’t as clear as you might want at this point, but the fact is that it certainly doesn’t hurt at the present time. It may help your Google rankings in the future. But for now, Google+ alone doesn’t equal enhanced rankings.
However, if you have strong social media participation with quality content, especially on Google+, and you have many customer reviews, especially on Google+ Local, it’s likely that you’ll enhance and defend your ranking positions in the future. That seems to be the direction Google’s algorithm updates are headed. May as well get a head start, right?
Creating a Google+ Account
Creating a Google+ account is easy. You must first have a Gmail email account, and everything else evolves from there (and can be used for your website’s Google Analytics account, too). You simply open up a Google search page, where you’ll see “+You” in the upper left corner. Click on that and follow the steps from there.