If you think Google+ will never be able to compete with Facebook in social networking, guess what? You’re right.
Google is more interested in owning the search engine results market. And that’s what Google+ brand pages are really all about.
In fact, for brands that sell their products directly, I’d bet Google+ brand pages could become more important than Facebook fan pages. In case you missed it, after an initial false start at launch and months of speculation, Google+ finally opened the floodgates for brands today.
Google+ claims to have 40 million users, but it’s unclear how many of those accounts are actually active. Anecdotal evidence – my personal Google+ feed is repetitively filled by the same four or five users despite having 200+ in my circles – suggests that most users signed up, checked it out once or twice, and never returned. Full disclosure: I logged on to Google+ for the first time in about a week today when the brand page announcement came down, and I do digital marketing and social media for a living. It’s my job to care, and I’ve had a hard time convincing myself that I should be logging in.
The first time I wrote about Google+, I maintained that Google+ accounts would be more competitive with LinkedIn, and more important for professionals looking to build their own personal brand. I still maintain that personal Google+ profiles will be important for that purpose, even if the service has already run out of friends to suggest for your Circles. But even if most Google+ user accounts are dormant, Google+ brand pages are going to become important quickly.
Google+ brand pages look a lot like Facebook fan pages, and hence, drew criticism from some corners for a lack of originality. That’s a fair critique. But here’s what truly matters: Google+ pages, unlike your Facebook fan page, will actually generate traffic, because of a little thing called, um, Google. You know, the world’s biggest search engine?
The size of the Google+’s user base is irrelevant with regard to brand pages, because after all, Google is a search engine, not a social network. And Google is the undisputed king of search. Google enjoyed 65% of the U.S. search engine market in September 2011 according to ComScore.
Lost in all the hype around today’s announcement was the following paragraph from Google’s blog:
“People search on Google billions of times a day, and very often, they’re looking for businesses and brands. Today’s launch of Google+ Pages can help people transform their queries into meaningful connections, so we’re rolling out two ways to add pages to circles from Google search. The first is by including Google+ pages in search results, and the second is a new feature called Direct Connect.”
As I suspected, Google is going to include Google+ pages in search results. In other words, if people are Googling for “Boston Celtics tickets”, our new Boston Celtics Google+ brand page will show up in the results, presumably near the top. After all, doesn’t Google have a vested interest in keeping its own traffic in house, on pages it controls, featuring ads it can sell? You can bet Google will eventually place advertising on G+ pages the same way Facebook places ads on your Facebook profile. After all, Google reported made $28 billion in ad revenue in 2010.
That’s $28 billion. With a B.
Celtics.com is already one of the top organic search results for “Boston Celtics tickets”, but secondary market ticket brokers, who’ve spent a fortune mastering SEO techniques, all rank highly thanks to both paid and organic search results alike. Obviously, we want Celtics.com to be the first destination for potential ticket buyers, but if a Google+ brand page is going to perform highly in search results, we need to be there too.
The power of Facebook is that it allows us to grab mindshare whenever we choose from fans who’ve opted-in to our Fan Page updates. Still, we can’t force people to buy tickets just because we put an offer in front of them. More likely, when a fan actively wants to buy Celtics tickets, they will either visit our website, or Google something like “Celtics tickets”. Presumably, our Google+ brand page will give us more control over the search result for that query, and give us a better chance to capture that customer who’s demonstrating buying intent.
As an added bonus, for those users who are active on Google+ and want to become a Boston Celtics follower, we’ll be able to reach them there too, Facebook style, with status updates. I expect that content we publish on Google+ will eventually become more relevant in Google’s search results as well.
So, if you haven’t set up your brand’s Google+ page, what are you waiting for?