Google+ (or Google Plus) is many different things, depending on who you ask. It’s the fastest-growing social network ever. It’s the tool Google will use to beat Facebook. It will fundamentally change SEO. It’s a pain in the arse because it’s yet another social network to join. It’s Google’s latest attempt at social media, and they finally got it right. It’s mostly a playground for engineers and marketers. It’s appealing, but too late. It’s “the linchpin of Google’s plan to own the entire internet” (see below for the source of that quote).
Most likely, it’s some combination of those things. What it’s clearly not, however, is a venue that businesses can afford to ignore.
So what do organizations need to know about Google’s latest foray into social media? How can they get the most out of it? What impact is it likely to have? What are Google’s future plans for the platform?
Learn all of that and more here in almost three dozen of the best Google+ reports, guides and insights of the past year.
Google Plus Tips, Tactics and How-To Guides
Getting Your Small Business Ready for Google+ by Blue Focus Marketing
Mark Burgess explains how small business can build trust and creatively use circles on Google+ (“This insight [that people prefer to share specific information with specific groups of friends or followers] led to the creation of Google+ circles, a major differentiator between Google+ and Facebook. Circles enable you to ‘narrowcast’ messages…Suddenly, Google+ can enable micro-targeting via circles.”).
Google+ Pro Tips Round-Up: Week 1 by Business Insider
Simon Laustsen provides a Google+ “cheat sheet” for getting started with the network, covering account setup, tagging, commenting, managing your circles, finding hangouts, rejecting spammers, inviting people and more.
How to Migrate from Facebook to Google+ by How-To Geek
Justin Garrison details tools that can be used “to migrate pictures, videos, and friends” from Facebook to Google+ (assuming you want to connect with the same people on Google+). He walks through the migration process, including helpful screenshots to illustrate each step.
Tad Chef details the most important considerations in optimizing your Google+ profile, from your profile image (“Make sure you use a bigger image than just the tiny thumb you’ll see elsewhere on Google+ (or) on your profile it will look awful. Google simply scales it up. It needs to be 200 x 200 pixels or bigger.”) to proper use of the “Other names” and “nicknames” fields.
HOW TO: Integrate Google+ Into Your WordPress Site by Mashable Tech
Kelli Shaver shows how to display your Google+ profile information on a WordPress site/blog, add the +1 button, and even use a Google+-inspired WordPress theme, with details about and illustrations of three examples.
Frequent best-of honoree Pam Dyer explores a bit of what’s behind the Google+ “project” then shares more than two dozen resources for getting started on and using the network, from using circles and hangouts to its impact on SEO, and from tips small businesses need to know to feature comparisons to Facebook.
There’s no need to wait for brand pages to do business communication on Google+ by Holtz Communication + Technology
The brilliant Shel Holtz explains how organizations can tap into the power of Google+ circles for content marketing, completely apart from brand pages, noting “I’m skeptical about brand pages, since research indicates most people connect with Facebook’s version only to learn about coupons, discounts and special offers.”
Google+ Tips, Tricks and Tidbits by The Search Agents
The Ultimate Google+ Cheat Sheet by HubSpot Blog
***** 5 STARS
Frequent best-of honoree Kipp Bodnar shares all the basics you need to know about Google+, from the social network’s unique vocabulary (hangouts, circles, sparks) to shortcuts, user demographics, configuring privacy settings and more.
Who to follow on Google Plus? Google+ Suggested Users
***** 5 STARS
In one of the first, if not THE first, Google+ directories, you can find people to follow and add to your circles across a broad range of topic areas from bloggers, journalists and tech entrepreneurs to scientists, filmmakers and foodies.
Google Plus Tips & Best Practices by webbROI
Amit Banerjee explains why you should sign up for yet another social network (“You use Gmail/Google Apps as your email provider, don’t you? You use Google as your search engine, Chrome as your browser, YouTube to watch videos, and Google Reader to read blogs. Plus, what about Google Maps, Google Translate and a plethora of other Google products?”), what’s behind circles and sharing attributes, how Google+ differs from Facebook (“No walls here!”) and more in this informative post.
12 Google+ Marketing Tips From the Pros by Social Media Examiner
Cindy King shares tips for getting the most out of Google+ from 12 social media pros, including Mari Smith (“Craft an eye-catching mini-bio for your hovercard”), Kristi Hines (on optimizing your profile), Debbie Hemley (on promoting your Google+ page) and Jeff Korhan (on how to create a suggested circles list).
5 Top Google+ Plugins by Kim Garst
Writing that “Having fun with any new kind of social media like Google+ means you get to make it your own, and playing with the different plugins available can help you do just that,” Kim Garst reviews five of her favorite Google+ plugins for the Chrome browser, such as Helper for Google+, a multi-purpose plugin with functionality for notifications, translation and bookmarking.
SEO and the Google +1 Button
Google Explores Re-Ranking Search Results Using +1 Button Data by Wired Magazine
Ryan Singel takes a close look at how Google may use +1 data in search result rankings, and shares some interesting observations: “Google would love to get at its (Facebook’s) data — the way that Bing is already — but the two companies go together like toothpaste and orange juice. Facebook will likely never let Google anywhere near its data stream, which meant that Google had to build in its own social network. But therein lies the rub. If Google’s search results become heavily dependent on social signals from Google+, then there’s going to be heavy pressure on the net’s websites to embed the Google+ button. And depending on where you work — say, Facebook or the Justice Department — that could look like Google is unfairly using its search engine might to boost its Facebook alternative.”
How to Implement Google +1 Button for Social Sharing by Search Engine People
Joydeep Deb explains how to add and customize a Google+1 sharing button on any website, as well as how to modify +Snippets “to customize the Title, Thumbnail Image and Description that appear when your content is shared.”
Google+ Brand Pages
Google+ Pages for Business: What You Need to Know by MediaPost Search Insider
Janet Driscoll Miller points out that the main reason for businesses to create yet another social profile page, this time on Google+, is that “Profiles help your brand SEO and help your online reputation management (ORM) efforts.” She then steps through the process of how to create one.
13 Cool Examples of Google+ Brand Pages by DreamGrow Social Media
Mart Prööm presents more than a dozen examples of cool, and pioneering, Google+ brand pages from companies like Pepsi, Toyota, Fox News, Yahoo! and Angry Birds. And that’s possibly the first time those five brands have been mentioned together in a single sentence.
This may be what Google+ is all about. Sam Diaz notes of brand pages that “On the surface, the new feature feels like Google’s version of Facebook fan pages, a place where companies, celebrities and other ‘brands’ can interact with their customers and followers by sharing news or engaging in discussions. But Google brings something extra, something that Facebook and Twitter can’t offer – the power of open Web search.”
Test Driving Google+ Brand Pages by iMedia Connection
The always insightful but socially oblivious Daniel Flamberg writes about what the Google+ platform is, what it means to marketers, how consumers are reacting (e.g. “Google+ has attracted almost 50 million users since launch (as of mid-November); 68% of Google+ users are men; The single biggest occupation is software engineer; Biggest company affiliations are IBM and Google; It looks like a technology-focused, early adopter crowd”) and predicts how professional marketers will react to the platform in the near term.
How to set up your Google+ Brand Page right by Biznology
Chris Abraham walks readers through the process of “setting up your brand page right away in the right way. If you follow these steps, you’ll be as well-placed as possible,” from selecting a category and uploading an image through adding friends and optimizing your profile.
10 Guaranteed Ways to Get More Google+ Page Followers by HubSpot Blog
Contending that “without an ample following, all the time and effort you put into your presence is ultimately a waste,” Pamela Vaughan provides 10 tactics to grow your following, such as promoting your Google+ page in other social networks, writing a blog post about your new page, and making yourself eligible for Direct Connect.
10 strategic benefits of Google+ brand pages by iMedia Connection
Tom Edwards examines the similarities and differences between Google+ and Facebook company pages, and the benefits of Google+ brand pages for businesses, including search integration (“Google currently owns 68 percent of search market share. The fact that the Google +1 icon is now a part of every Google search result shows a glimpse of the level of integration Google has in store for users and brands alike”), using circles for audience segmentation, hangouts, and social gaming among others.
How to Create a Google+ Business Page by Practical eCommerce
Paul Chaney outlines how to create, use, and build a following for your Google+ business page. He concludes that “The features for Google+ business pages fall short of those available on Facebook, not the least of which is the ability to add custom apps. Google likely will add more features in time. Until then, the social network may serve as a second-tier channel through which you can build some brand equity and…improve search returns.”
11 Best Practices for Your Google+ Brand Page by Sexy Social Media
An excellent post outlining “ten things you should keep in mind when putting up your Google+ Business Page” such as looking at what’s working (and what’s not) for major brands already there; crafting a creative (and keyword rich, for web presence optimization purposes) tagline; and being “chatty, but never spammy.”
Google’s Holiday Gift to You: Google+ Adds Multiple Page Administrators Capability by MediaPost Search Insider
Janet Driscoll Miller (again) reports on Google’s decision to enable pages to have multiple administrators, why this functionality is important (e.g., “Allow multiple individuals to make updates…(and) Maintain personal account security”), and how to invite others to be administrators.
Google Plus Strategy, News and Commentary
What You Should Know About Google+ (Plus) by WP Blog Talk
Rob Cubbon reviews the basics of Google’s latest attempt at a social network, starting with Circles (a feature that sets Google+ apart from most other networks) and posting (along with helpful shortcuts) and moving through hangouts, the +1 button, privacy, Google’s philosophy behind Plus, and new features likely to be added in the not-too-distant future.
Google+ Creates Data Gold Mine For Advertisers by MediaPost Online Media Daily
Laurie Sullivan outlines the value of Google+ for advertisers (“‘”For advertisers, one of the biggest benefits from Google+ will become the user data they don’t have access to from Facebook,'” according to Debra Aho Williamson), the network’s rapid growth (“Google+ has become became the fastest-growing social site — hitting nearly 25 million visitors worldwide as of July 24, just four weeks after launch…It took MySpace 23 months, Twitter 33 months; and Facebook 37 months”) and its user demographics (“About 63% of Google+ users are male, compared with 37% female…the highest percentage of users falls between the ages of 25 and 34″).
Stop Calling Google+ a Facebook Killer by iMedia Connection
Jon Elvekrog expounds upon the unique strengths and drawbacks of Google+ as a social network, its benefits to brands and advertisers, and why he believes it is much more likely to coexist with Twitter and Facebook than to supplant either one.
Social Relevance: Google+’s Algorithmic Implications On Networks by MediaPost Search Insider
Rob Garner counters skeptics, demonstrating how Google+ may help the search giant not just catch up to but leapfrog Facebook and Twitter, who, Garner believes, are far behind “in terms of applying algorithmic relevancy to the social experience.” He recommends that organizations treat Google+ as a “primary top-tier social network” and notes the importance of creating content and sharing it through Google+ for search success.
Google+ – Too little, too late by Inside a Marketing Mind
Gareth Case likes Google+ and understands its appeal, he just thinks that Google may have “missed the boat… By about 5 years” in terms of building a viable social network. His post includes an excellent graphic illustrating the distribution of social media traffic across the major networks.
Can Google+ succeed among the common people? by iMedia Connection
Alejandro Rivas-Micoud reports on results of a focus group test with Facebook users in various age groups test-driving Google Plus and providing feedback. These users liked the concept of circles, but found other aspects of Google’s social network confusing, and weren’t sure it offered any compelling differentiation or reason to switch from Facebook. The conclusion was that “simply improving upon the Facebook experience is probably not enough. Instead, to gain a meaningful market position…Google+ (needs) to either carve out a specific, complementary niche to Facebook” or just be flat-out better.
What Brands Need To Know About Google+ AdWords Social Extensions by Search Engine Land
Kelly Gillease explains what social extensions are, why they matter (“The main advantage for in-house marketers implementing the new Social Extension is to boost their +1 counts all around, AdWords ads and Google+ pages will receive boosts from each other’s increasing +1’s”), how they impact AdWords ads, and what companies need to do to complete the verification process with Google.
9 Facts About Google+ You Need To Know by Agile Marketing
Jim Ewel presents “9 facts about Google+ that may help convince you that you need to add Google+ to your social media marketing in 2012,” among them that Google+ will affect search results, that it helps people to find your business, and that activities there are easy to track.
How Google+ Is Changing the Web, Even Though No One Wants It To by HubSpot Blog
Kipp Bodnar (again) contends that “Google+ isn’t about changing social networking. Google+ is the linchpin of Google’s plan to own the entire internet. The company with the platform that can give internet users EVERYTHING they want will win. This is why you’ve seen Facebook partnering with music providers, launching its own email service, and allowing users to make images and updates public to improve Facebook Search. These two internet giants are locked into the early stages of the business equivalent of a death match.” The logic is hard to argue with, but Google’s strength has always been that it’s not a walled garden (like Facebook now, or AOL before it). Going down that path would leave a clear opening for someone to become what Google was on its way to becoming before it decided it just wanted to be the next Facebook.