There are so many different social media platforms available now that businesses may struggle to find their way around the social world. It's clear that Facebook and Twitter have become household names across the world, favoured by thirteen year old girls as much as by breaking news companies as effective means of keeping in touch, but what about the other platforms? Where do they fit into this ever changing world of social networks?
Facebook is widely credited as being the first social network to trail blaze the way for socialising on the internet after it was launched as a network for university students to use. However, once it received global recognition, the doors were opened for almost anyone to join. Hot on Facebook's heels was Twitter, giving people a platform to post their thoughts in just 140 characters.
This then followed with an explosion of social media platforms, some of which gained considerably more popularity than others. Google+ launched in 2011 and has progressed to become one of the main networks in use today, thought to have over 500 million members. Interestingly, although the network itself is the second largest social media platform in the world, there are still an alarming number of people who don't have it or don't know how to use it.
It would appear that although Google+ can boast huge numbers of members, research has shown that they aren't spending much time on the site. Compared to Facebook, it's a minimal amount so how far reaching is the impact of Google+? It's all well and good having masses of members, but it means nothing if they are hardly using the network.
The important thing to remember here is that Google+ is not the same as Facebook or Twitter. It is a different type of platform, with a different target audience. There's a fine line between social media for socialising and social media for business, with different platforms falling into two categories. LinkedIn is a great example of a professional network that can still be considered sociable. You can meet people, interact, share content and create a network of your own.
However, you don't see pictures of people's baby bumps or weddings, their holidays or albums full of 'selfies' appearing on the LinkedIn news feed. You are likely to see highly shareable content, blogs, articles and job vacancies, as well as in-depth discussions with industry leaders across various different sectors. The fact is, LinkedIn isn't trying to compete with Facebook, and perhaps Google+ isn't either.
You'll often find that the connections people make on Google+ tend to match quite closely with those that they have on LinkedIn; a social network for professional use. However, Facebook is all about adding your mates and family members, using it for catch ups and gossip. You wouldn't upload a list of your skills, detailed job history and websites that you contribute to on Facebook because you know most of your followers simply won't be interested.
The business perspective
If you are running a business and trying to crack the social networks, it's essential that you understand the differences between the different platforms and what sort of content you should be sharing on each. Facebook is great for running competitions and joking around with your customers; it's about building a cult following. Twitter gives you the opportunity to get personal with your customers and talk directly to them, allowing them to buy into the brand.
However, Google+ is a different ballpark altogether. You are thinking from a professional perspective in that you will be connecting with other businesses, perhaps even the competition, as much as you will be with customers. It's likely that you will be engaging with people outside of your usual social circles and that's the key thing to remember.
The fact that Google+ is still gathering a following is a testament to the potential influence it could have in the future. While Facebook may be light years ahead in terms of active users, it has also spent eight years cultivating that following. In comparison, Google+ is catching up rapidly and has only been going for a quarter of the time. That, if nothing else, is the reason why Google+ is very much one to watch for the future.