When Google leaked its Google+ social network in late June, I was pretty skeptical. After playing with it the first few days I yawned in public. I've since admitted the early errors of my thinking and retracted that yawn.
Like almost everyone using "G+," I liked the "circles" concept of organizing contacts by theme--co-workers, friends (you know, REAL friends), clients, industry focus, etc., but I was not excited about dealing with yet another social network.
Then, after experimenting for a few weeks, I flip-flopped, like a politician running for election.
Yes, it's still very early; Google has yet to launch its corporate brand pages and just last week launched Games (not content I'm personally excited about, but maybe I'll finally check out Angry Birds).
Much of the early scuttlebutt is that while Google+ very quickly grew to 25 million users, most of those early adopters are technology and social media "geeks." Many users remain lurkers, having yet to actually post anything.
Hmm. Except for the quick early growth, this characterization sounds a bit like Twitter in the early days. Twitter now stands at 200 million users and is considered a key social network.
At a social media conference this past week, I sat next to a marketer from perhaps the most recognized consumer brand on the planet. He was extremely negative about Google+, saying that there simply wasn't an audience there.
My response to this and similar arrows slung at Google+: Give it some time. As I write this blog post, Google+ has been in a limited beta for a bit more than 7 weeks, while Facebook has been around for a bit more than 7 years.
While it's too early to tell how successful G+ will be, let's give it at least 12 months before we declare that it is either a failure or a Facebook killer.
In an interview with AllThingsD, Google+ product "dude" Bradley Horowitz commented: "You'll see increasingly that this is about making these suite of Google services coherent and better. So when you're on Maps and you want to share driving directions, you don't have to do it in a different way. It utilizes common infrastructure, common gestures."
In my own view, much of the opportunity is to create additional value for business users of Google products. For example, you can create a Google Doc or Calendar event and then drag it into a Circle. Presto! You have shared it with a group.
Why I Like G+
In the immediate time frame, I've become a fan of Google+ for its capabilities as a content creation and sharing platform.
Content creation in a social setting is a key part of my job. So, I need a socially connected content platform that hits the sweet spots of Twitter (immediacy, brevity), Facebook (conversation) and blogs (depth of message) but without the drawbacks like content space limits, Farmville requests and labor-intensive blog post writing.
This platform (and that's what Google+ is, more than a social network) would facilitate what I call the "Godin Approach." Seth Godin blogs almost daily, typically making single thought-provoking points often in 100 to 200 words or fewer.
Google+, with its simple interface and visual nature, makes it very easy to create quick posts such as tips, relaying statistics, news and repurposing your other content.
At 100 words or so, your post would be too long for Twitter and might not be the right audience for Facebook. And while the topic might be appropriate for your corporate blog, you might reserve it for more in-depth articles.
What Google+ Offers for Content Marketers
While Google+ needs a lot of work to reach its potential as a content marketing platform, here are some of the features and functionality that shows its promise:
- "Public" posts (those you share outside your circles) have permanent URLs like a blog post or landing page. This enables you to link to posts from other channels such as Twitter, Facebook and email.
- The Google+ page is clean and simple. You can create visually interesting posts quickly by uploading images and videos that often pop off the page, unlike on Facebook. And while "pages" are expected soon from Twitter, currently your experience is a rapid-fire stream of content.
- An unlimited character count gives you more space to post, although the interface design still encourages brevity. Posts with a combination of text and image/video are then collapsed but easily expanded by readers.
- Comment threading is similar to Facebook and superior to the random nature of Twitter in many client interfaces.
- The "+1" button gives your posts instant authority and social proof.
- Chrome plug-ins are available that enable cross-posting your content on Twitter and Facebook.
- The available real estate enables you to jump on news or announcements quickly before putting out an official blog post.
- You can build a great posting cadence by reusing your existing content, like white papers, blog posts, newsletter content, articles, and the like. Grab a screenshot from a presentation (see below), set up a "Tip of the Day" series, pull out a paragraph from a white paper, and you can build your miniblog in 5 minutes.
- Circles let you control whose updates you see and which audiences you share your content with. You can make posts visible to all or segment by circle, targeting specific groups such as customers, partners or analysts/thought leaders.
- +1s on Google+ will likely also boost your search engine rankings in Google search results.
Don't Wait for the Brand Page Launch
Once Google+ rolls out brand pages (currently only individuals plus a few test company pages such as Ford Motor Company can use the platform), companies will begin flocking in. Don't wait for that to happen.
Your thought leaders, marketing team and executives at your company should start building up followers and circles and discovering who the influencers are on G+.
Most importantly, now is the time to play with G+, to learn which type of posts get the best engagement and find a good posting cadence that keeps you front and center with your circles without overwhelming them.
As soon as you can launch a corporate brand page, you can use your learnings and the influence and authority you built up as an individual participant to help boost your company page over competitors that didn't get in on the ground floor.
If you want to see real-time examples, feel free to check out my Google+ posts page, and don't forget to circle me.
What are your thoughts on Google+ as a content marketing platform?