Don’t like devoting Social Media resources to Google+? You may have no choice

I’m not a big fan of Google+, the web search engine giant’s new Social Media tool. It tries to be an all-encompassing Social Media utility like Facebook while not offering anything unique that I find useful. And the numbers show that I’m not the only one who is reluctant to warm up to Google+: while a BrightEdge Survey in December found that while 61% of the top 100 brands in the United States had Google+ pages, none of those pages have more than the 65,000 fans  of Google’s page. Contrast that with Facebook, where dozens of top brands have more than 1 million fans. Ford has 5 million fans on Facebook compared to only about 27,000 on Google +.

But businesses may have no choice to devote marketing resources to this still fledgling platform. And there are two key reasons why:

1. SEO and Google’s incorporation of Google+ results into its search results

Superior page rank in web search results is critical for businesses today. Consumers increasingly are turning to the web to obtain information, and the higher you are in search results, the better the chances of consumers finding you.

Google is using this fact to its advantage by, according to Huffington Post, incorporating Google+ pages into its search results. Its search algorithm will now recommend Google+ pages for you to look at based on your search and web browsing history.

This makes good business sense for Google – by making its social media platform appear more prominently in its own search results, it can drive people to Google+ pages. Even if they don’t adopt the tool themselves (and some will adopt it upon seeing the pages), they’re still going to view the pages. And the consequence for businesses is that they then have to use Google+ – and use it thoroughly – to maximize their SEO.

2. Google’s powerful brand

When we think of web search engines, we think of Google. It is the most popular web search engine; I personally rarely use any others. But the Google brand portfolio now includes email, document storage and writing, a financial information product, a now-defunct health product and, of course, the Google+ Social Media product.

Given the size and influence of the Google brand, it stands to reason that more consumers will look to Google+ as a source of information and that adoption will continue to increase even if Google does nothing to improve the product.

In a perfect world, Google would do more to improve Google+ and use a better product to drive more adoption by businesses and consumers. But for the reasons above, consumers will flock there regardless of the quality of the product. While businesses may not want to devote increasingly scarce resources to a Social Media tool they consider to be inferior to others, reality says they may not have a choice.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on Lauren Proctor Internet Marketing, a blog on web marketing strategy. Please visit this blog to see this post in its original form.

Google Plus: A worthy foe for Facebook, or another mere foil?

Late last week, I finally snagged an invitation to try Google Plus, the web search engine giant’s latest attempt to expand its brand into other aspects of the web. Notifications that people have “added” me to their various “circles” have started coming in. And when I haven’t been working late (I didn’t get home until 10 p.m. four straight nights), I have been trying out the latest Social Media tool to become all the rage.

The question is, is this just another Web 2.0 fad? Or is Facebook, the Social Media behemoth, finally getting a worthy foe to compete against?

One advantage Google Plus has is its method of arranging friends. When you add a friend, you immediately are prompted to indicate which “circle” you want to put him/her in. You can put friends in multiple circles, and you can use these circles to communicate and share content with only specific groups of friends. This process is far more cumbersome on Facebook.

Another advantage to Google Plus are “hangouts.” If you have a webcam and the necessary computer software (and can afford the several hundred dollars required for both), you can start and conduct online videochats with people in your circles. You need the right hardware and software for this, but if you have it, you can do something with Google Plus that you can’t do with Facebook.

Google Plus is also integrated with Google’s other web-based products, including the ubiquitous GMail. When you’re in any Google product, a task bar appears at the top of your screen that both allows you to post updates and receive notifications.

But will this be enough to topple Facebook from its pedestal? Google is a very well-known brand, but so is Facebook. And you don’t have over 500 million users worldwide, as Facebook has, if you don’t have a damn good product. Google’s previous attempts at competing with Facebook (namely Google Buzz) haven’t succeeded. And the other social networking sites that have taken off since Facebook are more focused on sharing specific kinds of content (such as Tout), as opposed to an all-encompasing Social Networking platform like Facebook has become. Do Facebook users really need or want another such platform? If not, will they like Google Plus enough to switch over?

We’ll see what happens. It might not be such a bad thing for Facebook to get legit competition, because competition forces you to improve your product offering. But Google Plus has a long ways to go before it can think about beating Facebook.

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