Since the beginning of the year, we’ve conducted a number of competitive social media audits for clients, and the single, most-asked question in our strategy presentations has been: What About Google+?
That seems to be the million-dollar (make that billion-dollar) question.
Almost since its launch in 2011, there has been a steady stream of Google+ naysayers. However, the drumbeat of its demise has grown louder within the last year. And, probably with good reason.
The recent discontinuation of Google+’s Authorship program, which allowed Google to rank content according to the authority of the person who created it, has many industry pundits scratching their heads. Couple that with Vic Gundotra, the man behind Google+, stepping down in early 2014, and now offering Hangouts, one of the more popular functions of the platform, as a standalone application accessible outside of the social network just hasn’t done a lot to build confidence among marketers and users alike for 2015.
There’s Something to Be Said About User Numbers
Of course, Google being Google─with a well-earned reputation for being both secretive and indifferent─has painted a far rosier picture, as illustrated by a recent interview with Dave Besbris, Google’s head of social media. Many agree, though, it’s more about what he didn’t say─specifically his refusal to provide user numbers.
October 2013 was the last time Google shared numbers, touting its 300 million active “in-stream” monthly users, theoretically making it larger than Twitter. In-stream users are the people who see/visit the Google+ content stream, and is the statistic most comparable to the measurement other social networks use.
Today, far fewer people are using Google+. During the course of our competitive social media audits, we discovered that more than 75 percent of the B2B companies we were reviewing either didn’t have a Google+ page or only had what we call a “placeholder” page (Company information but no active posts and engagement). Our findings seem to be in step with other research that indicated only 0.2 to 0.3 percent of all Google+ profiles, about 4 to 6 million users, made public posts in January 2015.
How to Approach Google+ Today
This isn’t to say that Google+ is a social media wasteland. As with any social media platform, you should have an active presence where your target audience is. Google+ is the most male-dominated of the major social networks. Upward of 70 percent of its users are male, approximately 28 years old, and technically-oriented, for example, engineers, designers and IT professionals.
The main reasons B2B companies should still use Google+ are to:
- Help get Google to send the web crawlers to their website;
- Optimize search rankings;
- Leverage YouTube video libraries; and
- Connect with influencers who will share their content (assuming their target audience fits the demographics mentioned above).
Cisco is a terrific example of a B2B company that knows its target audiences and leverages its Google+ page to reach them by maintaining a steady stream of updates, sharing videos and infographics as well as traditional posts and announcements. It also consistently uses hashtags, images and photographs in the updates.
While no one would argue with having a better search result, it’s important to keep in mind that Google web crawlers don’t buy your products or services. Depending on your internal social media resources, you should spend your marketing dollars in channels that will make the most impact on sales. However, you can move past the Google+ placeholder page and cost-effectively post on a consistent basis by taking advantage of the associated YouTube features (assuming you have B2B videos to share) and using social media technology solutions, such as HootSuite, to automatically and easily share content across channels.
Remember: Google+ is just one way for your audience to find you.
Are you active on Google+? Or, are other social channels more valuable to you?