I recently received my Google+ invitation and have spent the last few days playing around a bit. If you haven’t heard of Google+ it’s basically Google’s answer to Facebook. While it’s not a separate web site, per say, it’s additional functionality to your existing Google account that enables you to choose what you share and who you share it with more easily than Facebook.
So as a small business owner, why should you care? Well, according to the Wall Street Journal 20 million plus people have joined Google+ to date, making it the fastest growing social network in the world. So while it may not be relevant to your business yet…it likely will be and can provide some free marketing help to your business.
From a personal standpoint, it’s cool. Although it remains to be seen whether I’ll be a hardcore user as I am with Facebook. Overall, it’s a cleaner interface without the clutter of the games that Facebook allows that muck up your news feed, but supposedly the games part of Google+ is coming, too. And while I’ve yet to try the huddle function (one long group chat), I think it will be a great way to coordinate a group of friends for an impromptu happy hour or dinner. There are a few other features like sparks and hangouts that aren’t as interesting to me so far.
More importantly, though, I’m curious about the implications for businesses.
While currently businesses cannot get a Google+ account, it’s coming by the end of this year. Rumor has it that Google has swiftly shut down businesses who have tried to set up profiles for Google+ accounts. A Google product manager released a short video stating that it’s coming for businesses and will provide richer analytics and integrate with google adwords as well.
This is great for the small business owner looking to go one place loads of data. And with what Google is doing in terms of tagging things you +1 (aka share or like) you will be able to crunch more data on how much traction your posts and shares are getting and at what times of day are most popular for sharing. But many small business owners we work with aren’t taking advantage of the tools provided by Google analytics and the keyword tool provided by Google adwords as it is.
And while currently Google+ is the fastest growing social network, are your customers there yet? And how will they use it?
Here are a few of my concerns about how your customers will adopt Google+.
1) Facebook is a place you go to connect. You make the choice to go there. It has become a habit for 600 million people. Google+ is just an add on to Google. I don’t think of Google as a place I go to connect, although some others may disagree. That’s just not my brand perception of Google. Right now, I use Google when I need to search for something. I don’t go to Google for much else, although I know many people use Google Reader to keep up with the blogs they follow, use Google calendar to keep tabs on their schedule, and use Google docs to share information across team members. Even more people use gmail as their preferred email client, but I’m not one of those people. So for those of us who don’t use Google’s extensive suite of tools every day, how easy will it be for us to change our behaviors and use Google+ more? Can google rebrand themselves as more than a search engine and a wealth of analytical information for business owners? Or am I the only person on the planet who perceives them as this?
2) Facebook and Twitter make it easy to accept followers and friends. You don’t have to drag them into a circle and assign them to a group if you don’t want to. Yet this is the main premise behind Google+. You decide who sees what. Which as a business owner with a public and a private persona of things I’d like to share with a select group of friends, this is appealing. But that extra step for celebrities and high profile business owners / educators may prove a deal breaker for adoption.
Are you on Google+ yet? How are you using it?