Since its launch in June 2011, Google Plus has registered over 90 million users.
According to a recent report by comScore, Visitors using personal computers spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook each month over the same period.
It is almost four months since the official launch of the Google Plus business pages. Response to business pages on Google Plus has been slow, which resulted in many businesses questioning the need to be on it as they looked at it as just another social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
At the same time, it's still early to pass the judgment as to whether Google Plus will succeed or fail. Moreover, taking into account the popularity of the Google as search engine and the extent to which Google Plus is integrated to it, Google Plus still has a potential to succeed. By the end of the December 2011 (around two months after the launch), the top 100 brands on Google Plus had 220,000 followers. This figure has grown to 3.1 million in February 2012. While Britney Spears has set a blazing trail on Google+, as the first personal account to reach first 1 million, and then 2 million followers, when it comes to official Google+ pages, that accolade has just gone to British alternative rock band, Coldplay. Similarly, Dalai Lama also recently crossed 1 million followers on his personal profile on Google Plus.
Indian brands have been slow to join the Google Plus bandwagon. At present, there are just a handful of Indian brands and companies on Google Plus, and only a few of these pages are actively using the network for their benefit.
There are five different categories of business pages that can be created on Google Plus. Here is a look at how each category of business users can benefit from being on the network.
Local Business or Place
For any local business, creating awareness about its physical location is a key factor. Creating a Google Plus business page allows a business to pinpoint its exact location on a map and provide information such as its address, hours of operation and contact numbers. Some examples of local businesses in India that are already using Google Plus to get in touch with their customers include Pizza Hut India and Hindustan Cabs, among others. One of the features that Google Plus offers (which Facebook doesn't) is the option of adding a + before the search string to find the Business Page of the company or brand automatically. In addition, the location address of the business is pointed out on the Google Map alongside the search results. Linking the Business Page with promotions and location based services such as coupons can help in increasing footfalls, whether it is a store, restaurant or a service, as the customer can find all the information that he needs at one place.
Product or Brand
These days, for any product or brand, using social media to keep customers engaged is a way of retaining brand loyalty. Tying in Google Plus pages with campaigns on other media can give a promotion much needed momentum. By adding fans to circles, it is possible to share any news about the brand, including product launches, promotions and contests, through photographs, posts and videos. While Facebook gathers fans using 'Likes', in Google Plus, this is done by getting people to add you in their Circles. Once you add them back in your circles, communicating to customers becomes easy and streamlined as you can share relevant content based on the common interest of each circle. Some of the Indian brands, which attempted to leverage Google Plus include Pepsi India, Sony Music, Close up, Maruti Suzuki and Café Coffee Day. At the same time, Indian brands that are actively leveraging Google Plus currently include IBN Live, The Times of India, Zoom TV and IDBI Bank.
Company, Institution or Organization
For a company or organization, including Non-profits, there are several groups of people to communicate with. This might include employees, board members, clients or customers. Using Circles helps in managing these groups effectively as relevant communication can be sent specifically to a Circle rather than as a public post. Although Facebook does allow this to an extent with its Groups feature, Google Plus has additional features such as Hang Out, which allows group video chats - a more interactive way of communicating with a group of people with similar interests. Globally, there are a number of companies, which have significant presence on Google Plus. Intel for example has around 375,000 followers on its pages on Google Plus. Among the Indian companies and institutions that are attempting this are Infosys, Wipro and IIT Bombay.
Art, Entertainment or Sports
Great publicity is the key to success in the area of art, entertainment and sports. Whether it is a television show, an art exhibition or a cricket match, making a public post on Google Plus can reach out to a large audience that is interested as it brings together Social Networking with Search. With the ease with which a video clipping can be shared with an audience or feedback can be sought through hang outs, it is possible to gauge whether the show is likely to be a success or make necessary alterations to the content if there is negative feedback. Earlier, the movie Don2 leveraged Google Plus. Circle of Cricket, a consortium of official Google Plus pages of selected Indian Cricket Players, has already notched up over a million followers by offering the chance to connect with favourite cricket stars through streaming posts from players, providing the latest cricket news and exclusive photographs.
Whatever your line of work or business might be, getting more people to know about what you do can help your business grow. By featuring the +1 button on your website, you can encourage visitors to click on the +1 tab, and this in turn ensures that your page turns up in related Google personalized search results, thereby increasing your prospective customer base. Online retail portal Fashion and You is also trying to leverage Google Plus to generate interest among its followers with fun posts and contests.
In comparison to Facebook, Google Plus pages are still to prove its mettle. At the same time, integration of Google Plus into search and with other Google platforms seems to be the weapon Google is betting on. In the meantime, testing it and exploring its features can give you an edge over competitors and help you build up larger circles where you can post relevant information directly to people who are interested. In the earlier days of Facebook, brands who joined the bandwagon had couple of so called early mover advantages including low cost of advertising, shortcuts to gain high volume of fans among others. Google+ Statistics is a great place for you to keep track of the latest happenings on Google Plus.
If you are already using Google Plus for Business, do share your experiences and thoughts.