In just under a year, Google+ (pronounced "Google Plus"), Google's social network "competitor" to Facebook and Twitter, has grown from zero users to more than 100 million monthly active users using plus.google.com. But what is it? And assuming you're already on Facebook or Twitter, why is it important to you and your business? Here are five simple reasons you should be considering Google+ as part of your social media strategy:
Google+ really isn't a social network. It has a website, plus.google.com, which is a social network, but Google+ in and of itself is much more than that. Google+ is the social layer that binds together all Google products. The entire purpose of Google+ is to make all Google products more social.
Let's face it — just having "Google" in the title catches your attention. That's because Google is really big. Think about it — if you want to do well in a search (more on that next), Google+ makes the search more social. If you want a better presence in your customers' Gmail contacts, a Google+ presence is going to help you.
Have a local business presence? Google+ integrates your place of business into an experience that shows the friends of your customers that they frequent your company. Every Google product will have a Google+ integration, and as a result, it benefits you to have a presence on Google+.
'Social' is the new SEO
SEO, or "Search Engine Optimization," is the process of optimizing websites to index well in Google.com searches. More and more, Google is relying on social factors for influencing those results. When you log into Google.com, your search results are personalized to the things your friends have shown interest in, and the types of things you've shared.
Google+ makes SEO even easier. To start, you can tie the pictures and names of all the authors of content on your website back to their Google+ profiles. Their names and profile pictures appear next to the articles they write in Google.com search results. This makes your content stand out, even if it isn't the first one on the page.
On top of that, the more content from your website that people share and comment on within plus.google.com, the higher your content will rank both in personal search results, but also in the normal organic search results Google returns. This is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your search engine ranking on Google.com.
100 million monthly active users
Earlier this year, Google announced that it now has more than 100 million monthly active users across plus.google.com alone. This doesn't include the traffic Google+ gets across all other Google properties. (That number would be closer to 160 million monthly active users.)
No matter what anyone says, Google+ is not a graveyard. People are actively using it every month, and the community there alone is one your business could and should be targeting. This is one audience you could be tapping and bringing back to your brand to convert into real money and sales.
Google has a really cool feature called "Hangouts" that allows up to 10 people at a time to talk, via video chat, with each other. You can also broadcast these "Hangouts" to the public (called "Hangouts on Air"), and videos get stored on your Youtube channel. This is an opportunity for you to share what's going on within your company.
You could be utilizing Hangouts to build one-on-one relationships with your audience. At the same time, it's a great tool for sharing conversations you have with partners or customers with the world. Take advantage of this as an opportunity to make your brand more real to your customers, potentially building loyalty and sales in the long-term.
Google+ search and trending terms
Google's strength has always been search. That doesn't stop with Google+'s main home page, plus.google.com. When you search for things on Google+, you are brought into a conversation. Right within the search results you can post updates, and anyone else searching for the same thing will see what you just posted, without you even needing to post anything within the terms you searched for.
Here's an example: Let's say you're watching the Super Bowl. Search for "Super Bowl" on Google+. Immediately you'll see search results of everyone talking about the Super Bowl on Google+. Now post something about your favorite football player. Without even mentioning "Super Bowl" in your update, everyone else who was searching for "Super Bowl" will also see your update. This turns into a great opportunity to meet new people talking about similar things, and provides a great way for your brand to insert itself into a conversation.
Google+ also supports Hashtags and "Trending Terms," which are Twitter's way of showing the top things people are talking about any given time. In the upper-right of Google+, you'll see a list of terms people are currently talking about. Click on any of these and it will return the search results for the conversation going on at that time.
Here's the valuable part to you: because Google+ is not yet as big as Twitter, it should be easier for your business to trend across the 100 million monthly active users of Google+. So try to push your customers over to Google+ to participate in the conversation instead of Twitter and you'll see much better results in your potential for trending on the site than you would Twitter.
As a social strategist, to me Google+ is a given in my tools of choice in growing brand presence and conversions for the companies I work with. If your business wants "the edge" on the market, you should be considering this as one of the top tools in your tool chest for growing your presence on the Web. Google+ is here, and it's here to stay — your business should be using it now.
Want to know how to do these things and more? Check out Jesse Stay's newly released book, "Google+ Marketing For Dummies," available in stores and on Amazon now. Stay is currently director of social media for Deseret Digital Media.