In an informal MarketingProfs poll, marketers cited Google+ as their most hated social network. Reasons given, both in the poll and the subsequent comments, mentioned things like convenience (or lack thereof), complexity (huge learning curve, not enough time), and my favorite, "my target audience isn't there."
Lack of convenience, I can understand. Google's API is limited at this time, so it may not be fully integrated into the tools marketers use to manage their other social presences.
Complexity, I can appreciate. Google+ offers a broader feature set than other social networks. So, if a marketer wanted to maximize his efforts on Google+, he would need to put the time in to learn how each of these features worked, such as Hangouts, Photos, Circles, and Events.
But "my target audience isn't there" is a lousy excuse not to spend at least a little time integrating Google+ into your marketing mix.
Here's the thing, marketers: "Google+ is Google itself," according to Bradley Horowitz, VP products for Google+. That means if your target audience uses Google for search (likely), YouTube (likely), Gmail (probably), and has an Android device (possibly), Google+ will help them find you faster.
Let's explore that further.
1. Google+ and Search Marketing
Maybe your business has vibrant communities on other social networks, but by neglecting Google+, you are missing out on search engine marketing that you can do. Simply sharing your blog posts on Google+ will get them indexed faster and create more content about that topic that your target audience will find in search.
Ask your SEO team for the keywords you are supposed to be targeting, and include them in a very simple public share of your blog posts. Just because SEO isn't your cup of tea doesn't mean you should exclude a social network that has tangible search benefits for using it. Add a title; a short, thoughtful intro; and for bonus points, +mention (tag) your author. Maybe even add a few hashtags for faster discovery (but Google will do that for you if you forget).
2. Google+ and Social Listening
Every public post on Google+ is indexed. That means if someone is saying bad things about your company, you need to know about it, lest that post show up in search results when your target market is searching for you.
Set up your Google+ brand page to get emails when you are +mentioned (i.e., tagged). Then push those emails into your social listening software, so you can determine if you need to respond. Who knows? Maybe you'll find that your target market is talking about you on Google+. Or better yet, you have major fans there that you've been neglecting!
3. Google+ and the Rest of Google
If your target audience uses Gmail, if you have an Android app, or if you have a YouTube channel, you need to think about building up your Google+ presence. When your company sends emails to Gmail users, its Google+ page will appear next to the message. A major brand reinforcement opportunity is there. By promoting your Android app directly on Google+, you can tap into a market that will recommend it, link to it, and broaden the app's reach. If you have a YouTube channel, you could run live events directly on Google+ using Hangouts on Air, or simply create more "web pages" (Google+ posts) that link to your YouTube videos, which will get indexed by Google and help your video marketing efforts.
4. Google+ and Content Creation
Google+ has built in photo-editing tools to create memes, filters, and more on top of your own photos. It can even animate them! Each photo you share on Google+ becomes another image about your brand that gets indexed in search or that could be downloaded and used on other social networks. Google+ loves its photographers, too, so if your brand happens to be in an industry that lends itself well to photography, you have a huge built-in support system to push those photos out to a larger audience.
Google+ posts themselves have formatting capabilities, such as bold, italics, and strikethrough text, meaning you can convey more emotion and context with your message. Posts also have a very large character limit, meaning you can pack a post with lots of information to build more context around your target topic.
Lastly, Google+ posts tend to have a longer shelf life when it comes to being found in public streams (news feeds). This means less time spent re-posting the same content so your audience can find it.
Why Marketers Need Google+
Maybe your customers don't want to have to follow you on another social network. And maybe you don't want to invest in building a social presence on another social network. That's fine---but Google+ is not just another social network. It brings much more to your content marketing strategy and "discoverability" than other social networks.
Put simply, using Google+ as part of your content marketing plan will help your target audience find you faster and when they're ready to buy.
Stephan Hovnanian is a content solutions architect at Bambu, an advocacy platform by Sprout Social. He has spent most of his professional career as an email marketer and business owner focused on helping companies build stronger relationships with their audiences.
LinkedIn: Stephan Hovnanian