If you’re a business owner, chances are you have a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Social networking has become an integral part of corporate marketing departments. Skilled social marketing pros specialize in this important niche, doing what personal users do just for fun by spending inordinate amounts of time on Facebook. But social media is serious business – and for good reason. No other media has the potential to reach so many people at such a low cost. Facebook’s statistics are staggering. Following are just a few of them (you can see the rest on Facebook.com):
The above stats make it clear why social media is a business marketing phenomenon. Now, a new social media player is preparing to enter the game, offering businesses another option for sharing their message, enhancing their marketing efforts and climbing the search engine ladder.
Google+, the powerful search engine giant’s latest major venture, is currently undergoing beta trials with invited users (for personal accounts), and Google has announced in official blog posts that a business version is coming later this year.
What Makes Google+ Different?
You might wonder why the Internet needs another social media outlet. After all, MySpace learned the hard way that Facebook is tough competition. Obviously, however, Google thinks it can do it better. That’s something your business will need to determine for itself, but Google+ already has some attractive features for businesses, and the enterprise version will offer additional enhancements.
First of all, Google+ is bound to be more than just another social media hub. Think of all the other tools and services Google already offers for business and personal communications and productivity, and the potential for business use is undeniable. Integrating various Google products, such as Apps, Checkout, Sites, Adsense, Gmail and many others, potentially creates the seamless social/business experience that only Google is in the position to pull off. And the Android market adds another layer of interaction.
We’ve Grown Accustomed to Our Facebook
Does this mean that Google+ will unseat Facebook from its social media throne? That is unlikely, but the overall concept of making real-world interactions available online should be enticing to your business as you try to share content and product ideas, launch marketing campaigns, provide better customer service, offer discount coupons and initiate other customer interactions with a targeted audience.
Targeting Your Conversations
Looking at just a few of the current Google+ features offers some insight into what you might expect when the business version becomes available.
One of the most intriguing and powerful Google+ features is something called Circles. With this networking tool, you can assemble groups of contacts and control the content that each group sees. Content can include your posts, photos and other material targeted to different segments of your list, depending on how you group them.
Hangouts and Huddle are group video and text chatting features that would seem ideal for setting up team meetings with one of your Circles. Perhaps this will be integrated with Google Docs for real-time collaboration on document drafts.
Sparks is the Google+ way of sharing content with your Circles. It is a Google search engine you can use to find content (in 40 languages) to share with your Circle of friends – or customers. Business users might set Sparks to share their own website content or use it to initiate conversations about current industry trends and how your solutions solve problems.
Mobility is another of Google’s strengths, and you can bet they will implement some strong mobile features through the Android platform, including Maps and Google Places. A potential customer might be able to interact with your business through Google+ after locating you on Maps, and then walk into your store and pay for a product merely by bumping devices.
Nobody knows for sure yet what the enterprise version of Google+ will include, but judging by the information available, it looks like this new social media network could encourage high-quality content targeted to a specific audience. Combined with all of Google’s many existing products and services, it might help you attract new customers and retain current ones by offering a unified social media and shopping experience.
Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or all three, Google+ deserves consideration when the business version launches in the coming months. The important thing is to leverage the social media phenomenon to your business’s advantage, no matter the platform.