To Google+ or not to Google+, That is the Question…

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People seem very keen to pronounce a time of death on Google+, huh? There’s always speculation about the future of the platform – G+ engagement numbers are always questioned, functionality integrations queried with raised eyebrows and every staff shift or office move triggers reports of the platform’s inevitable demise. The most recent prognostications stemmed from Google’s I/O developer conference, in which Google+ barely rated a mention. While Google has always ignored or denied speculation of the network’s demise, Google CEO Larry Page spoke to the New York Times and answered questions about G+ in the wake of I/O. His responses were largely inconclusive, leaving us none the wiser on the future vision for the platform. More importantly, Page’s generalised answers offered little assurance to those considering investing more time and money into building their presence on the search giant’s social network.

But regardless of whether you’re a convert or not, you have to admit, Google+ remains an important platform in your social mix. If you’re active on social media, you need to include Google+. Yes, it’s another network to learn, and yes, the learning curve of G+ is steeper – or at least, different – to other platforms. But there are good reasons to spend some time amongst Google’s social circles.

Because it’s Google…

One of the main reasons in the ‘pro’ column for Google+ is that it’s Google. All brands want to achieve the best search engine results, and SEO is dictated by the world’s biggest search engine, so anything you can do to play nice with them is a smart move, right? The logic of this is sound – there are definitive SEO advantages to having an active Google+ profile. Google Authorship is one such reason (though that’s been watered down slightly with the removal of author photos from SERPs). Another is that Google weights G+ pages differently in search engine results. Each G+ post has it’s own, unique, URL, and those URLs regularly show up in SERPs. This is particularly relevant to Google+ users – Google will use information from your profile, like people you’ve circled on G+, when assessing what results you see when you conduct a search. How much additional weighting G+ data is given is not clear, but studies have shown significant SEO benefits to having an active Google+ presence. For that reason alone, it’s worth being active on Google+.

Mo’ Platforms, Mo’ Problems

In some ways, many marketers would kinda’ like Google+ to go away. The structure of Google+ is different to Facebook or Twitter, it’s not as immediately intuitive – it takes time and effort to get the most out of G+, time that a lot of people simply don’t have. If it were to disappear tomorrow, maybe that’d be a reduce complexity and give people one less network to research and engage with. Definitely, Google+ can be a challenge at first – the strengths of the platform are in specific communities and conversations, and it takes time to find and engage with these groups to build a solid presence. But the emphasis on communities also reduces the onus on posting – best practice advice is that people should look to post on Google+ only once or twice a day, and if you’re already active on Facebook and Twitter, you can quite easily re-purpose a post or two across to G+ at times relevant to your audience. Restricting your G+ interactions to a limited number of posts each day might not boost your circle numbers a heap, but it will help you maintain and grow your presence over time. And for time poor marketers, this might be enough to get you by.

The Opposite is Also True

Whilst many look at Google+ as an additional workload, it can also be seen as an additional opportunity. Anywhere you can deliver your content to your audience – at no cost – is advantageous. If you can find relevant communities to your brand, Google+ is a huge opportunity. As with all social networks, it comes back to where your audience is at, but having an additional avenue to promote your expertise and brand is never a bad thing. What’s also important to keep in mind is people might be talking about you. Having a Google+ presence gives you coverage of another channel – if people are looking to talk about your brand and you don’t have a presence, they can’t +mention you in posts. If people talk about you and you don’t have a G+ presence, you can’t respond. Social media monitoring is going to become more and more important, and you won’t be able to do this effectively without having a Google+ presence to begin with. It’s important to consider that even if you think Google+ isn’t for you, it may be for your customers, and you need to be where they are to continue to meet their needs and wants.

Here to Stay?

No one knows if Google+ is staying or going. It would seem unlikely that Google would totally abandon a platform with 300 million monthly active users – no matter how people query the numbers, those figures are difficult to ignore. Recent moves suggest that the platform has been de-prioritised, to some degree, so we’re probably less likely to see major changes or innovations to the way it works, but for the many still learning the G+ state of play, having a period of stability might be a good thing. The bigger question that remains is, is it worth investing time and energy into a platform that may cease to exist? My advice would be that you should – you should take the time to investigate what’s there, but more importantly, you should do the research to work out if your target audience is active on the platform. If they are, you should be, that’s all there is to it. Definitely, as noted above, there are significant benefits to maintaining an active G+ presence – it’s here now, it’s worth utilising.

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