Google's social endeavor, Google+, became the new kid on the block in 2011. It initially adopted many aspects from Facebook and Twitter, mixing in its own unique functionality like Circles and Hangouts. However, this channel is a little different from other social networks, in that it acts as a social layer across many of Google's other endeavors--including YouTube, Search, Local, and more.
With nearly 67% of US search engine volume, Google is still the biggest player in the search engine game. And, with Google+ posts passing link equity to other pages, building a presence here is essential for online success.
So, how many people actually use Google+? The most recent numbers from Google, posted in October of 2013, show that there are about 300 million monthly active users.
While exact numbers aren't available, reports typically estimate the site's user demographics as about 70% male and 30% female. CircleCount reports the US as the biggest audience. Perhaps most intriguing, by a large majority, those reporting a job role are students. The large majority of the remaining top users are in either technology (developers, engineers, designers) or photography. The key here is about determining if your target market is there, and at this point, chances are that it is.
Google hasn't released many of statistics and information regarding how people are using the network aside from raw usage data. Google+ is commonly believed to be largely male and tech-driven, which most of the available data seems to support. Early adopters of the social network are still the biggest and most active groups on Google+.
Many people actually interact on Google plus in the same fashion as they do on Facebook and Twitter. However, because Google+'s circle feature forces people to place connections into categories, it is way more simple to customize and provides a higher level of flexibility for privacy. In theory, this would provide users with a more enjoyable social network and give them access to more people in more relevant ways. For example, you could share content specific to your professional network with your colleagues and acquaintances, while sharing photos of your family to a more private circle with your close friends and family members, all from the same platform.
Another feature that seems to be growing in popularity with users is the Google+ Hangout. Hangouts can be public or invite-only and allow users to connect with one another with voice and video without needing to download any software (Skype, GoTo Meeting, etc.). Google has also added communities, which appear to mimic Facebook's groups, giving additional functionality and engagement opportunity to the platform.
Being successful on Google+ will be largely conditional on your audience and whether or not they have made the jump to this network yet. If they haven't, you'll need to either find a way to relevantly target the users that are there with your content in hopes of leveraging the benefits to your advantage, or you'll keep an eye on the network and test the waters here and there, waiting until your audience arrives to dive in.
The increasing functionality of the network is exciting. With the addition of Communities, it is easy to see potential from a conversation and engagement perspective. As an added bonus, Google made it so your community can be tied to your brand page. Awesome.
Now the ability to add events through interactive posts to a brand page gives even more functionality. You can invite users to an event and notify them directly; when they RSVP, it will automatically be added to their calendar. Consider the impact here to both your online events and even those held at brick-and-mortar locations. Extending your offline events to your online and shareable audience could help net exponential reach (and ultimately attendance)!
Regardless of the platform, there are some universal truths to social media marketing for businesses that will hold true on Google+ as well. It's important to spend time clearly identifying the objectives you are trying to meet. Having these goals laid out will give you a way to measure your success, making the rest of your effort far easier.
Cross-Platform Promotion. Leverage your other channels (social and otherwise) to increase visibility to your burgeoning page. This increased visibility will help build the community there while also presenting an integrated front.
Share Images. The G+ community responds well to imagery, particularly professional photography. Social is a channel that rewards authenticity, though, so mix some more "homegrown" media in with the highly-polished brand imagery.
Post Formatting. Use the * and _ and other operators in conjunction with paragraph spacing and post layout to call attention to your content and make it more professional and appealing to your audience. And don't forget to tag relevant people using "+" and their name.
Publisher-ship & Authorship. Implement authorship and publisher: Implement publisher status for your brand and site and help your blog authors with authorship. This will help establish authority and will add a personal touch to content as Google SERPs will show author faces in results. Over time, this also allows the authors increased visibility. Use this to your advantage let them build their voice and audience. All of these factors will increase the visibility and authority of your presence. Depending on the nuances of your content's authorship, you'll want to make sure your content's properly marked up.
Leverage Taste-makers. It is easy to find key businesses that influence your industry and business on G+. It's still a smallish community where it may be easier to get the attention of and build relationships with these influences in your space. Tread lightly though; don't spam and always be respectful.