Google+Google+ has really got the social media world excited. Twenty-five million users in 6 weeks, makes the growth of similar social networks like Facebook and Twitter look positively stunted in comparison. And the blogosphere is just as fired up – a quick Google blog search for Google+ returns more than 10 million results!

When Google+ launched, every marketeer worth his salt wondered what the network would do about brands; and companies across the globe started chomping at the bit to be the first to interact with the consumer communities on Google+. That privilege has gone to Ford Motor Company, which has managed to gain a corporate identity on the new social network, despite Google closing down all other brand pages. Google says it’s working on a suitable brand solution, but we’ll all have to sit tight until then.

Looking at the Ford page, it’s difficult to find any differences to established Facebook pages. It comes complete with a profile picture in the top right corner, smaller pictures at the top of the page and its ‘wall’ underneath. People can +1 things (akin to Facebook’s ‘Like’) and comment underneath.

While the aesthetics might be similar, there are a number of features we’re keen to start trialling and we’re excited to see what Google has in store for branded profiles. With the network looking set to spice up the social media marketing mix in the not too distant future, we take a look at what brands and businesses could be doing with Google+ in the coming months:

1) Hangouts

Customer service is one of the key areas we encourage our clients to explore and consider for their social media strategies and the Hangouts feature of Google+ could potentially revolutionise online customer service. The likes of Vodafone and ASOS are doing a great job on Facebook and Twitter already; and a number of companies offer instant chat via their websites. But, Hangouts could provide brands with the opportunity to chat to customers directly via video chat, making the whole experience more personal and friendly.

From a PR perspective, Hangouts offer some great opportunities, such as video roundtables with key influencers, and live customer events. This feature will get creative juices flowing as brands think of ways to engage with consumers using this new medium.

2) Search

As a search engine, it’s obvious to point out that Google’s strength lies in search. Google has already temporarily stopped its real time search function with assumptions that it will be restored with results from Google+.

Users can also +1 things, equivalent to a ‘Like’, and this will determine a website’s social value. This could potentially mean that the more +1’s a website has, the higher up it features in the rankings, affecting the SEO tactics we’ve become accustomed to. Google+’s Circles feature can also affect the way we search online, as recommendations from people in our circles, i.e. our trusted sources like friends and family, can feature in search results.  Social search is also beginning to affect the way businesses look at SEO. As well as +1’s, Facebook ‘Likes’ and re-tweets on Twitter can influence what we look for online. As this evolves, the customer experience has never been more important. You need to ensure you give the best experience possible to help encourage social recommendations.

We’re also keen to see the insights provided by Google+.  Facebook Insights are great but can be limited when it comes to identifying key influencers. And there are a number of Twitter apps and tools that give us good information but not all in one place. Monitoring and listening play a crucial role in informing your social media strategy so with Google’s background in analytics, we’re hopeful Google+ insights will provide the information brands need.

Time will tell if Google+ lives up to the buzz it has already created in the social media world. It may take time to become mainstream but, if and when it does, it’ll definitely make its mark on social media marketing.

© Google. Logo.

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