Does your small business have a presence on Facebook or Twitter? Are you wondering whether it’s worth investing time and resources in yet another social network? When Google rolled out Google Plus (Google+) last year, many asked the same question. And they’re still asking.
There’s no doubt that social media is a great outreach and engagement tool for small businesses with limited marketing budgets. But as more and more social networks come online (Pinterest anyone?) is it really worth the effort to branch out and jump on every social media bandwagon that comes along?
To help you decide whether Google+ is worth your time and resources, here are some the factors to consider as you determine your strategy.
Google+ Versus Facebook
If you want to understand the merits of Google+ versus Facebook, this article from American Express OPENForum,“Google Plus vs. Facebook: Which is Best for Business?” does an excellent job breaking down the factors to consider. Here’s a summary:
- Breadth of Audience – Facebook has a powerhouse user base that checks in regularly, making them easier to engage. “…For small business, whoever your customers are, they're already on Facebook and know how to navigate it.” Google+ has a smaller user base, although the audience is more focused (male engineers, designers and developers are among the highest Google Plus user groups). But they visit the network less often, and are thus harder to engage.
- Engagement Features – Although both have similar engagement features – Facebook’s “Like” and Google’s “+1” button, for example – Facebook leads the way in options and tools that let businesses engage with their fans, with a plethora of apps, polls, events, and visibility into friend activity. At Google+, your options are limited to uploading photos and live video chat “hangouts” with friends or customers.
- Branding – Facebook’s new “Timeline” design for pages is a real boon for small businesses that can customize pages to reflect their brand in a way that’s unparalleled in social media. Google+, on the other hand, leaves less territory for your brand building (although recent updates see Google+ moving away from its earlier Google-heavy branding and white space model).
One more consideration: “Segmentation.” Through its “Circles” feature, Google+ lets page owners segment fans or customers and deliver more tailored messaging to them. Facebook has rolled out a new Interest List feature that lets users organize content and reach more targeted users according to topics that interest them, but Facebook doesn’t offer the level of segmentation that Google+ does.
Google+ and Online Businesses – The Potential Impact on Search Rankings
Google is a search engine behemoth, but how does Google+ impact your businesses’ search engine results? Some marketers are encouraging businesses to setup Google+ pages to maximize their rankings, and here’s why:
- The “Search Plus Your World” Feature – Google’s new “Search Plus Your World” functionality gives users the option of co-mingling personalized searches (based on content shared by friends on their Google+ network) with regular search results. This is a matter of user preference, however; users must be logged into Google+ to enable this, and they can also disable this feature from the top right of the Google Search screen.
- The “+1” Endorsement – Web pages that have been “+1’d” (or liked) by users in your circles are automatically bumped up in your search results. Think of it as a virtual word of mouth recommendation. Likewise, any content your business shares on your Google+ page will show up in related Google searches (again, the user must be logged into Google+ for this to happen).
So far, it remains to be seen how strong an impact Google+ pages will have on overall search rankings. But if you run an online business, Google+ and the integration of the “+1” tool on your website could give you a big advantage, potentially boosting your organic online search rankings – something worth testing.
The Bottom Line
So, what should your small business do? With limited resources, it’s important to focus your efforts on the social media network that’s right for your business. Be strategic. Consider these factors:
- Is your target audience active on Google+? A quick look at the latest social media usage statistics for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others (care of OnlineMBA.com) shows that 71 percent of Google+ users are male, 44 percent are single, with engineers being the most common occupation. Demographics aside, you could poll your customers to see whether they are active (meaning they visit the site at least once a day) in-person, via email, or on other social media sites.
- Where is the best fit for your small business? For businesses that specialize in professional services, connections may be more easily made and engagement might be more fruitful on LinkedIn than Facebook or Google+. For service businesses, Facebook and Twitter might be a better fit. It all depends on where your audience is hanging out and if they are joining in conversations about topics that are relevant to your business. Take a look at what other businesses in your field are doing. Where are they engaging? Are they successful?
If you decide Google+ is right for your business, set goals and track your progress. If not, keep it on your radar and be prepared to adjust your focus if it becomes a hangout for your customers and a forum for conversations that matter to your business.
- Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? Finding the Right Fit for Your Small Business
- 3 Steps for Social Media in your Business Plan
- The Ultimate Small Business Guide to Social Media Marketing