Don't Discount Google+

The other day I was asked, “Why hasn’t Google+ really taken off? Is it going to make a comeback?”

Let’s take a step back. Google+ has taken off in a lot of big ways, and Google+ doesn’t need to make a comeback. Although, it clearly needs to better articulate what it can do for marketers and what its value proposition is for Internet users.

More than a Social Network

Google+ is not your typical social network that lives within a .com silo like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like. Google+ is a social layer that ties together the tech ecosystem Google has built from YouTube to Gmail to Google Places and more. Google+ is a way for Google to generate social data across all of those properties and tie a single user identity and that identity’s social connections to each of its platforms. That’s why signing up for YouTube or creating a gmail account now means also signing up for Google+. Everything is Google+, and Google+ is everything else.

A Ghost Town? Hardly.

Google+ has been described as a ghost town. Who’s on Google+? The answer is a lot of people. According to Global Web Index, Google+ is now the world’s second largest social network in terms of active users.

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“Active users” is a term that raises suspicions because it’s fair to say that a large percentage of Google+ “active users” aren’t actually actively using the network. Active users can be an inflated term, even on Facebook. Any action you take while logged into a social network makes you an active user. For example, users signed into a website using their social media log-ins makes them active users whether they visit those social networks or not, so active users isn’t necessarily the most accurate depiction of a social networks user size until you understand the implications.

Google+ only recently launched social sign-ins in February, and it already accounts for 34% of social sign-ins. This allows Google to take user social data and website behavior to deliver greater levels of customization and personalization in searches. Google is best positioned out of all the social networks to take user behavior and serve up customized search results based on that behavior because of its search dominance. Facebook’s launch of Graph Search shows that its investing in building its ability to deliver on this promise as well, but its playing catch-up while Google has search locked down.

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Activity on the Google+ platform is not what it is on Facebook, but Google does offer features that differentiate it, including Hangouts, Circles and a mobile experience that’s arguably much better than Facebook’s. In addition, Google+ has been making strides in the business sector by adding new tools for businesses to leverage the platform for inter-office communication. Google+ is gaining steam in terms of building activity within the platform.

Search. Search. Search.

If one reason could be given not to discount Google+, search would be enough. Google AuthorRank allows businesses and people to link their Google+ profiles to the content they create. This improves search rankings and click-through rates on content. Your customers might not be on Google+, but they are on Google searching for information. Your Google+ presence or lack of a Google+ presence has an impact on search.

Don’t Discount It

Google+ might not be worth an investment for your brand today. It might not be tomorrow, either, but Google knows what it’s doing, and when the world’s biggest search engine puts an investment in a platform the way Google has in Google+, you can bet that it’s not going to stop until it takes off.

Facebook began as a platform for college students. Twitter was once the realm of the technorati. Google+ is still writing its first chapters. Much like Twitter, those who establish a presence now will be sitting pretty when the masses come.

It’s not about one platform being better than the other or trying to find the mythical “Facebook killer.” This is about finding the best platforms to connect a brand with a consumer. At the very least, Google+ is worth investigation. Don’t discount it.