I’ll be honest – I’ve never been a big fan of social media. When people ask for my Twitter handle I instead give them my email address. I purposely don’t spend much time on Facebook or Twitter, use the other social media services solely for linkbuilding, and derive perverse satisfaction every time a social media expert hems and haws after being asked how to quantify the ROI of social media. As an SEO/PPC guy, I am not at all sold on social media being worthy of the enormous buzz it’s generated. So you can imagine how much it pains me to say:

 

If you own a business, get a Google+ page.

 

Google+ is Google’s attempt to carve out space in the social media world.  It is similar to Facebook, in that users can manage a profile, upload content to their profile page and share it with other users that they invite to view and interact with that online presence.  But there’s more to Google+ that’s making a lot of heads turn—Google+ is part of Google’s new “Social Search” algorithm that takes into account the social mentions of a webpage in ranking that page’s relevancy. In plain English, that means that your friends’ comments/recommendations/ activities on Google+ are going to start showing up throughout the search results page, if Google deems them worthy enough.

As of now, Google+ still has very low social media market share.  Although Google states that they now have over 90 million Google+ users, the real number of active users on Google+ is unknown (Google has yet to release the actual number of active users).  For comparison, Facebook has more than 800 million active users and Twitter, 100 million active users.

But before you dismiss Google+ based on the numbers, consider that Google+ is offering features that, with time, may lure people to use Google+ over Facebook. If users feel the features mark an improvement over the Facebook platform, be prepared for Google+’s popularity to grow dramatically. Given Google’s penchant for developing great applications and useful products, it would be foolish to prematurely dismiss Google+ as an irrelevant aspect of the social media market.

Marketing Tool
In addition to the features that may appeal to the average user, Google is promising the addition of some features that could be of interest to businesses’ internet marketing campaigns:

* Google+ Search
: Search keywords, your or a competitor’s brand, business name or anything else and see what people are saying about them on Google+.In addition to the features that may appeal to the average user, Google is promising the addition of some features that could be of interest to businesses’ internet marketing campaigns.

Ripples: A visual way to see how your posts are being spread across the Google+ universe.  See who is sharing your content and use it identify influencers or see how communities are being formed around your content.

Social Analytics: Google is promising the addition of a page in Google+ that will allow the page-owner to see aggregate demographic data about who is interacting on their page and their social activities. Similar to Facebook’s backend dashboard, this could be useful for marketers studying their customers’ demographics.

Big Changes to Search
The integration of Google+ into Google’s search algorithm may result in a dramatic change to search results by giving added relevance to websites that receive social mentions. A business must have a social presence to be able to receive social mentions, and as of now, Google+ is the only social media platform that is part of Google’s new “social search” algorithm.  If a business does not have a Google+ page, then as Google+ grows exponentially in the near future, your business will be left behind in the searches.

Why aren’t Facebook results indexed by Google? Is Google purposely excluding Mark Zuckerberg’s social empire from Google’s search results? Actually no, it’s Facebook that blocks it’s content from being shown on Google, and instead inked a deal with Microsoft in 2009 to show Facebook users’ information on Bing. Google’s go-it-alone creation and promotion of Plus will likely force Facebook to allow some portion of the data on their 800 million members to be shown in Google.

Regardless of which industry giant wins the Social + Search = “Social Search” wars, marketing managers and business owners need to be prepared. Businesses concerned with promoting their brand, building a community among existing customers and acquiring new customers on the internet should make Google+ an active part of their online presence. That means providing regular updates and content on the Google+ page, Google+ buttons on the website and Google+ buttons on all blog posts (along with Facebook and Twitter).

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