Last month, our friends in Mountain View announced yet another platform to help small businesses like ours, Google My Business. The launch is designed to bring all of Google's connections into one dashboard that will allow us to seamlessly manage our connections as small businesses. As the VNR about the product noted, it's "a free and easy way to find and connect with your people, wherever you are." For small businesses and independent contractors who market for various companies, the intersection of ease and frustration have once again collided with another roll-out. Of course we are all for simplicity and ease of use, but with any of these platforms you have to ask yourself-is it easing the load or making things more difficult? There are scores of examples of products-even some by Google--that have promised a one-stop dashboard for managing marketing avenues, but how many have succeeded? Before I dove headfirst into Google My Business for all of our marketing efforts positives and negatives had to be weighed into consideration:
- Yet another application to switch in an and out of:
While much of the effort of the past 12 months at Google has seemingly pointed towards having one singular login for all of your accounts, we all know this is impossible. Grandfathered-in accounts, unique clients and even general stubbornness have made this a losing proposition. There certainly seems to be an effort towards making it easier, but all it takes is a simple search on "frustrated by Google logins" to recognize the challenges associated with managing multiple accounts for different clients. As Casey Newton of The Verge pointed out, the shift occurring at Google also is evidenced in the slow departure from the Google+ iconography to hopefully simplify the process for others, "But now comes evidence that the company is indeed exploring a future where Google+ branding gradually fades into the background. Some developers implementing Google+ logins on their websites are now seeing an option to add a 'sign in with Google' button, according to people who The Verge has spoken with. Screenshots show a simple blue button with a white Google "g" logo and the words "sign in" or "sign in with Google."
- You have no choice:
Whoever holds the cards makes the rules. Basically if you don't like Google My Business-don't use it. Google doesn't care. But don't expect any sort of preferential treatment and assistance when the time comes for Google to share results of your business on organic search terms. Furthermore, it has been well documented, even by Robert Bork and others that as long as Google is number one in the hearts and minds of its consumers, you can't fight it.
- Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram:
These are the real players in the world of social media relevance. No softball news story ever mentions how the most recent movie or sporting event was trending on Google+ or Google My Business. This is small potatoes in a world that has yet to take off. The big boys like Facebook and Twitter have found ways to incorporate themselves into Google's algorithms and now Google is playing catchup trying to do the same by forcing engagement on Google+. You know Google My Business will follow. As Neil Patel brilliantly pointed out in his Gifographics last year, "Whether you love or hate social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, you have no choice but to use them. Social sites, especially Google Plus, impact your search engine rankings."
- No growth:
Anyone sitting around the water cooler at work or on the bus talking about what they learned last week in their Google Hangout? Enough said.
So am I going to use it? Definitely. Most definitely. There are still some great reasons that Google My Business will work and will integrate well into the flow of my business.
- Find your people.
The three words above are the exact call to action that Google is employing with this effort. The ability to engage with your audience, see your customers and interact with them via in-line responses are all huge parts of the Google My Business effort. The ability to make the conversations private if necessary is also another great tool in some of the more sensitive industries that exist (financial and banking for example).
- Discover how customers find your business
A great integration into yet another Google platform makes acquisition analysis a seamless part of the equation. With AdWords Express part of this solution, marketers can utilize the data points on acquisition and engagement to determine the ROI and efficiencies of each media channel. This component seems to be a huge part of the intent of this project and Google points it out in a release on the project. "The Internet is connecting more businesses with their people every day. However, our users tell us that finding these loyal customers can be complex and time-consuming."
- Face to face chats via hangouts
Who knows if we will ever use this. My company certainly hasn't gotten their yet, but the idea of having real-time face-to-face chats with a business about a product is peachy. The options here are limitless. Whether it means a face-to-face product demo or even a negotiation on price when looking into someone's eyes, the impact of this tool is limitless. Furthermore, I feel like customers could also get a sense of what is happening in a store and see other clientele-much like a Weathercam would at a ski slope.
- It's Google.
Therefore it is cool and must be adopted by marketers. We simply cannot ignore any of the devices, platforms and tools placed at our feet by the folks in Mountain View. While Google My Business might not turn into Gmail, we simply cannot ignore it because it's new and inconvenient.