With 10 million confirmed users of Google+, and comScore reporting there were 20 million visitors to Google’s new social platform during its first 21 weeks of existence, it’s safe to say from a pure numbers perspective that Google+ is off to a hot start. Brands, after seeing the potential on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, are ready to jump into the Google+ pool, but there’s a problem: the lifeguards at Google aren’t ready for them – and neither is the platform.
Despite a slew of stories across the web that reported Google+ business pages would be coming later (though a few hundred brands would be allowed as part of a pilot Google+ program, including Ford), some brands jumped on the platform anyway, and, as promised, Google began shutting down many of these accounts.
Naturally, this being the Internet, a flood of whining and grandstanding followed. Google is now promising to “roll out rudimentary business accounts by late fall,” according to ClickZ.
While brand marketers may feel anxious being barred from the network, they can take this time actually strategize about how to best use Google+ once it opens the doors to brands. A one-strategy-fits-all solution for social marketing doesn’t work in a day where users are flocking to different social networks for different experiences.
Brands need a concrete strategy for Google+. Though it’s early, it’s not too early to start mapping out a Google+ marketing roadmap.
1. Do Your Community Research
If you have a list of key brand influencers, check to see if they’re already active on Google+. You don’t want to spend time and money focusing on a platform if your key influencers aren’t there. That’s like walking into a crowd and screaming your message, hoping some of the people you want to hear it are there.
2. Use it Yourself
You’d be surprised by the number of marketing professionals who spend time around conference tables pontificating and strategizing about “social ROI,” “engagement strategy,” and “social sharing” who don’t actually participate in social media. Don’t be one of those people. Immerse yourself in the Google+ community and learn the nuances that make it different than other networks.
3. Create Your Community Strategy
Before you begin marketing to Google+ users, you need to put a solid community strategy in place. Build a plan that answers the following questions before reaching out to them on the platform:
- What are the potential ways to communicate in this channel? (Posts, promotions, paid ads, contests, updates, and other content)
- How is this channel different than our other social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter?
- What are target audiences looking for from this channel? Are they like Facebook users, of do they come to Google+ to interact about different topics than they do on Facebook?
4. Decide on Success Metrics
Figure out what you can measure on Google+ to determine success for your marketing or brand engagement goals. Make a list of all the metrics you can measure (e.g., number of fans, clicks, comments, shares).
No one knows whether Google+ will offer a paid ad program, but chances are they will, and those ads will come with their own measurement metrics. But for now, figure out what you can measure from the get-go.
5. Develop a Rollout Plan
When the gates open and brands are allowed on Google+, there will undoubtedly be a flood of content hitting users who will have just gotten used to using the new network for their personal relationships. Create a phased content rollout plan to ensure you don’t bombard your targets with unwanted messages. Start slowly, and tweak content based on reactions.
Don’t forget to use your existing social media platforms to tell your communities about your new Google+ presence. Try something like: “Are you using Google+? We just joined! Come connect with us there for (add distinct information that will be shared on the channel).”
No one knows where Google+ will land on the social network success matrix, but one thing is for sure: Google will throw its weight behind the success of this endeavor. How, when, and why people decide to use Google+ will impact every marketer in the coming months. By taking a proactive approach, you can stay ahead of the curve and jump in when the water’s warm.
Editor's note: This column originally was published on July 24, 2011, and comes in at No. 8 on our countdown of the 10 most popular Search Engine Watch columns of 2011. Over the final two weeks of 2011, we're celebrating the Best of 2011 by revisiting our most popular columns, as determined by our readers. Enjoy and keep checking back!