(eM+C)—Google+ is the latest player on the social media scene. With 40 million-plus users, the social media network has carved out a niche for itself. Like they do via Twitter and Facebook, consumers are sharing content, engaging with new contacts and building communities on Google+.
Businesses, however, are still sitting at the red light as Google+ remains closed to business-specific pages. That’s expected to change soon as the platform continues to evolve.
Yet businesses shouldn’t wait for the floodgates to open. Now is the time to turn your attention to how an investment in Google+ might make sense for your social media strategy. While the exact benefits still need to play out, the beta community is revealing some early takeaways aligned with the demand among e-marketers.
Consumers are already there
Acquiring over 40 million members in four months is something the social network can boast. That’s made even more impressive by the fact it encompasses Google+’s early days of invite-only membership. The +1 sharing feature has 1 billion news stories, blogs and other types of content shared across the web per day. These numbers are right on par with Twitter and Facebook.
More will follow … even if they don’t know it
Further growth will come from among the 200 million people logged onto the family of Google services—Google Mail, Google News and Google Places. All of these pages contain a universal toolbar which Google+ sits on, making it easy for users to set up a profile, link to connections, receive notifications and access content. Simply put, Google+ will almost always be on and is just one click away.
A forum for targeted content
Circles, arguably one of the most popular features on Google+, makes perfect sense for businesses. It rejects a one-size-fits-all strategy that can scare off consumers. Users can sort their connections into bucketed lists any way they’d like to control who sees what information they’re sharing. Businesses undoubtedly will gain the same ability to segment customers or prospects, helping them to share relevant content to specific audiences. Facebook is already following suit, adding similar features in the past month.
Live video chat
Many businesses are identifying “hangouts” as a viable resource for customer service. Users can video chat via Google+ to keep abreast of the lives of friends and family. Businesses are expected to adopt that model with their customers, using the feature for anything from user forums to one-on-one support to mass service requests. Video chat could also be used for web conferencing with key business partners or customers, given the recently added Google Docs and sketchpad features.
More SEO runway
Google+ is backed by the most powerful name in search engine optimization — Google. This means that any content on Google+ will likely receive preferential treatment within the Google engines, potentially providing an easier and more effective way to reach prospects without undergoing costly and resource-intensive SEO strategies. This is especially huge for smaller businesses which are traditionally buried in the engines by larger competitors.
A way to measure ROI
Most social media platforms have been dinged for their inability to provide businesses with concrete return on investment figures. That’s likely changing with Google+ and its integration with Google Analytics. The social network will offer customer insight into who, where and why consumers are reading your information. Talk about invaluable intelligence.
Putting all these potential benefits aside, there are several considerations on the other end of the spectrum, including whether usage will sustain its upward swing. Google+ possesses enough firepower to draw people away from Facebook and Twitter, but will it prove to be a channel through which consumers prefer to engage with businesses?
While debating and testing continues, businesses can use this time as an opportunity to lay the foundation on how they can use Google+ to their advantage. It’s the early adopters who will set the standard and break away from the competition.
Jeff Revoy is chief product, marketing and strategy officer for iContact, an email and social media marketing provider for small and midsized companies.