Marketers across the web are starting to ask a big question. Is Google Plus (G+) the future of social media?
Opinions are split. Let's begin by taking a look at what the facts say. In 2013, Social Media Today published an article starting that Google Plus (G+) was the "one (social media platform) to watch." While Facebook and Twitter had already established themselves as "go to" social media brands, G+ appeared to be a wild card in the mix as sources across the Internet contemplated just what Google's social media experiment would accomplish.
Mashable pointed out that, according to research, although Google+ boasts 20 million users or more, they weren't spending a lot of time on the site. Social Media Today went onto say, "It's all well and good having masses of members, but it means nothing if they are hardly using the network."
The Google Plus To Facebook Comparison
The question is: can we accurately compare Facebook to G+? It's important to note that the G+ platform is different from the platforms of Facebook and Twitter. According to Social Media Today, the G+ platform is a "different type of platform, with a different target audience." As such, a fine line exists between social media made for socializing and social media made for business.
The biggest Google Plus benefits are for the business users because this is the target audience. It isn't your typical feed, where you see what type of cookies your sister baked and when. It instead allows you to connect powerfully with a world that could return your ROI-customers, employees, colleagues and peers. AND friends. (We'll put them last. Not really, but you get the idea!)
Express Writers has seen a huge impact from Google Plus, and it's the platform type that makes all the difference. We recently connected with Rand Fishkin in a Google Hangout. This wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the existence of G+.
Will Google Plus overtake Facebook? One argument, extrapolated from the Social Media Today article we referenced at the outset, is that one cannot truly overtake the other because of the platform differences:
- Facebook is an avenue for joking with your customers and running competitions or giveaway. It's a place to build a "cult following."
- Twitter is prime real estate for getting personal and talking directly to your customers.
- G+ is a professional landscape, geared toward connecting businesses and professionals with each other, and opening the door to engaging with individuals outside of your usual social circles.
It's like comparing apples to oranges. But statistically, Google Plus just might have a shot at trumping Facebook.
Facebook's Response to a G+ Social Media Takeover
Talk about Google's social media experiment overtaking Facebook goes all the way back to 2010. Facebook published an interesting response to the question, "Are you worried Google will overtake Facebook?" In essence, Facebook pointed out that although Google had repeatedly attempted to build a viable social network, they were continually unsuccessful.
However, since the publication of this response, we've seen Google Plus grow in leaps and bounds. As of June 2013, G+ turned 2 years old. And according to Marketing Land, G+ "has seen both solid growth and criticism during these years." G+ managed to hit 135 million "in stream" users, and although it trails behind the well-established Facebook network, it is undeniably growing and growing substantially.
G+ To Overtake Facebook by 2016?
As Google Plus turned 2 years old, a new study hit with a shocking prediction. Although the two platforms can be dramatically different in terms of target audience and content, a new study predicts a G+ takeover of Facebook by 2016. According to Real Wire, sharing of online content by Google+ users "is set to surpass sharing by Facebook users by February 2016 according to a new US study from search and social analytics specialist, Searchmetrics."
According to the latest data published by eMarketer, Facebook is the most popular social network. Approximately 51 percent of global Internet users log into Facebook at least once per month. With 26 percent of Internet users' worldwide, logging into G+, Google comes in second! There's no doubt that with each passing year Google grows stronger and bigger. But is it enough to overtake the current social media giant?
According to the case study reviewed by Real Wire, "Facebook is growing from its extremely large base to something larger, and is therefore slower." Although the blue mega network is continually growing, which is remarkable, the "data shows Google+ can catch it if growth rates for sharing activity continue as they are." As of 2013, "the absolute number of shares for Facebook was over 29 billion compared with just over 2 billion plus ones for Google+."
The News as Of 2014
In February of 2014, Hot Hardware published an update on Google Plus statistics, revealing that Google+ now has over 1 billion users and is building to overtake Facebook. Popular opinion has it that G+ is a ghost town, hardly frequented by members. Facebook, on the other hand, seems to be a constant buzz of activity.
Just why do people think of Google Plus as a ghost town? It's primarily due to the platform and target audience difference. For folks who prefer the lighthearted interaction of who's baking what and when, Facebook will immediately appear much more active than G+. But for businesses and professionals, G+ is bustling with professional activity promoting growth and connectivity with allies and the competition.
As of February 2014, Google Plus houses over 1 billion registered users. Facebook has 1.19 billion. Says Hot Hardware, "It's true that Google+'s stats are somewhat artificially inflated due to Google integrating accounts for its various services. However, Courtney-Brown [at SiteProNews] says over 540 million Google+ users visit their profiles every month to share photos, update their statuses, post comments, and more. And that +1 button? It's being clicked over 5 billion times a day across the web."
Many of G+'s active users are younger, which makes the network an important resource if your business is looking to target the teen and young adult demographics. Google Plus is also highly mobile with 26 percent of mobile users accessing G+ for social reasons from their mobile devices, according Courtney-Brown.
Hot Hardware concludes that "like Facebook, Google+ is what you make of it." And this is the hard truth of ALL social media platforms. They are only as useful as you make them, and you will only get out as much as you put in. With that in mind, how should you use G+?
How to Best Use G+
Google Plus can be overwhelming to use. The site itself is huge, and it seems like features are being added before you have a chance to master what's already there-hey, it's Google, what did we expect? Google is always innovating, and G+ is no exception. So, just how can you best use this social media platform? First, let's establish its primary uses:
- To meet new people
- To connect with prospective customers
- To deepen relationships with your consumers
Now, let's talk about how you can use G+ productively. Lucky us, there are a lot of "geeks" out there who have discovered the ins and outs of this platform. And their efforts have resulted in this list of the top 10 tips for getting the most out of Google Plus:
1. Tag people. One of the best ways to get noticed on G+ is to tag people. Tagging can accomplish two things. First, it ensures the person tagged sees your post. Second, it can prompt them to interact with you. Every time you tag a person, they receive a notification (unless they've disabled notifications). Tagging is a prime means of being seen.
2. Set up Google Authorship. This is also known as using the "rel=author tag" on your blog. Thanks to Google Authorship, you will see your photo beside your published content in Google search results. Not only does this feature mesh perfectly with Google+, but it's also extremely important for search engine optimization. You should use the rel=author tag on your guest posts as well.
3. Post on Community pages. This is a tip easily overlooked by a lot of G+ users. According to Blog Tyrant tips on Google+ "You don't get a lot of traction from just posting 'public' unless you already have a lot of followers." The trick to gaining traction is posting valuable content in relevant communities. Communities are populated by people who have topic specific interests. By posting valuable content to these communities, you can tap into an audience you might otherwise have not realized existed.
4. Cross post to G+. If a topic is trending as popular on Facebook and Twitter, cross post it to your G+ account for those followers who are exclusive to your Google Plus network. Don't cross post everything, though. You'll likely have some diehard followers who follow you across all three networks, and they won't want to see the same content three times over all of the time. Instead, pick and choose the really prime content to cross post.
5. Use Google+ Events to launch products. Google+ Events will automatically e-mail your social circles about a scheduled launch while simultaneously adding the event to any user's calendar who accepts the event invitation.
6. Use G+ to write long messages, and then tweet the link via Twitter. One of the most irritating things to most people is the character limit instituted by Twitter. One workaround is to use G+ to write a long message, and then tweet the link out via your Twitter account. Not only does this allow you to share more, but it lets your Twitter following know that you're actively using Google Plus.
7. Incorporate keywords. In 2014, keyword optimization has seen some massive evolution in SEO. But keywords still have a place on G+. You can use keywords in your profile page, which is uniquely effective should you want to be associated with them for either your business or blog.
8. Use images. Images are a great way to generate greater attention. Some of the "geeks" recommend uploading the image separately because it comes up bigger and generates more attention. Create a new title, and subsequently tag the person from the original post for maximum exposure.
9. Use bold and italic text styles. One of the exciting features that sets Google Plus apart from other social media networks is the capability of posting with bold, italic and strike through text. These styles can make your posts stand out while also making them impactful. Take advantage of these capabilities. This image from Blog Tyrant shows you how:
10. Emphasize G+ on your website or blog. G+ is a massively growing social media platform, but a lot of people don't realize just who is using it! You can show you're actively using it by emphasizing it on your website or blog. Do this by displaying the +1 button on your posts and pages, and actively promoting your G+ profile link.
The Future of G+
Will G+ overtake Facebook? If we're looking at sheer numbers, it's very possibly that by 2016 (or earlier), G+ will statistically overtake the mega social network of Facebook. Fast growth is certainly in Google's favor, and the resources at this companies disposal makes almost any goal they decide to set attainable.
Is G+ the future of social media? According to QUARTZ, "Google sincerely thinks that Google+ is the future of Google." Unlike other social media platforms, Google isn't solely dependent on social media to grow. Says QUARTZ, "Google is turning into a platform on which the rest of Google's web service are evolving-something that has the effect of making people use Google+ by default."
G+ is gearing up to be HUGE. QUARTZ reports that "in a revealing interview with the Indian business newspaper Mint, Steve Grove, a Google+ exec who inks deals with content providers and influential figures, makes it clear that this is just the beginning. Grove tells Mint that 'the reason for that is that Google+ is kind of like the next version of Google'."
There is no doubt that the future will be an adventurous battle for control of the number one spot in social media. Will Google Plus overtake Facebook and claim the spot? Time will tell.