Is Google+ a Plus for Brands?

Natasha Sholl By Natasha Sholl | 21 Nov 2011

It’s comical to think of Google as the underdog, but when it comes to social networking, Google+ is the younger, scrappier brother of Facebook. With the recent release of Google+ brand pages, should online retailers be investing time and money in yet another social media tool?

For SEO purposes, it’s imperative to be on top of every move that Google makes. So when Google enters the social media space, it’s probably not something online retailers should ignore.

US data from Experian Hitwise shows that Google+ recorded its biggest numbers for the week ending November 12, 2011, receiving more than 6.8 million total US visits. This represents a 5% increase compared to the previous week and a 25% increase compared to a month ago.

BrightEdge has crunched the numbers when it comes to comparing Google+ with Facebook. The research shows that 61% of the top 100 brands in the US have Google+ pages, while 93% of the top 100 have Facebook pages.

While the early uptake of brands on Google+ is impressive, the number of brand followers is lagging behind. Ford, one of the early adopters of Google+, has 27,535 fans on Google+ compared to 5 million on Facebook. The only company with more than 50,000 followers is Google (surprise, surprise).

Given Google+ is new to the social network scene, it’s not surprising that the numbers are behind. However, between Twitter and Faceboook, online retailers are finding their time and resources are already stretched. Is it really that important to get on the Google+ bandwagon?

While Google+ has a smaller user base, that may not necessarily be a negative thing. In fact, it offers an opportunity for brands to speak directly to their audience without being interrupted by hundreds of photos from Uncle Bob’s 60th Birthday or multiple status updates from an aggrieved ex-co-worker.

Google+ also has a ‘Hangouts’ feature which allows live audio and video chats and the opportunity to provide exclusive content to consumers.

What is most important for retailers is that Google is continuously unifying its offerings. Google+ could be integrated with other Google services (including Places and Maps, Web and Image Search as well as YouTube). This means more visibility and could impact organic search.

So, is Google+ just another headache for brands or a source of untapped potential? What do you think?

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