Google recently rolled out the Google Plus project, which seeks to make sharing online more like sharing in real life. Google Plus, already known by the shorthand "G Plus", takes the best features of Twitter and Facebook and combines them into one concise channel.
Here are the top six things every marketer needs to know about Google Plus:
Project vs. product: This is called the Google Plus project because Google wants users to know that it is adding a social layer to ALL Google products (search, photos, YouTube, etc.) rather than creating a stand-alone social application like Facebook.
Engagement is king: Google Plus is all about engagement. It has the potential to widely spread content and be a major driver of traffic to other websites. Google's search engine already serves that role, and Google+ undoubtedly will enhance it. Google Plus has become one of the top 10 referrers of traffic to TechCrunch, a top technology blog, in a matter of days.
Create circles: One of the main Google Plus features lets users categorize their connections into "circles" -- such as business contacts, friends and family -- and share different information with each circle, as in real life. Facebook attempted to do this with lists, but the process there is time-consuming and burdensome. Google Plus circles are easier to create and use. Unlike Facebook, you don't have to accept all "friends" into one large network and share information that at times may be irrelevant to many of them. You also can create niche circles for specific purposes -- a "Media" circle to connect with the press, for instance, or an "Industry" circle to share information that will help establish your organization's reputation as a thought leader in your field.
Share information that sparks conversation: Google is an information engine, and the "sparks" feature extends that mission to Google Plus. Sparks make it easy for people to find interesting information to share with their circles. Sparks also filter information, providing you relevant content about your interests. Its location within Google Plus and its ease of sharing encourages users to share information with relevant circles. An example may be an organization, such as DAG, using sparks to find new information on Google Plus and then starting a conversation about how that news affects our team, clients and industry.
Hanging out online: The "hangouts" feature of Google Plus allows you to video chat with up to 10 people at once. Unlike Facebook's new video chat feature, which requires you to initiate a call, Google Plus lets you tell specific people (or entire circles) you are "hanging out" and invite them to join you for a face-to-face chat. Hangouts also foster group video chats, and therefore collaboration.
Start early, but tread with caution: Google Plus is not ready for businesses and organizations -- yet. Google says it will have pages ready later this year and is actively discouraging brands not to create profiles before then. But you can get ahead of the curve by adding a "Plus 1" button to your website and applying to be a part of the Google Plus for businesses pilot program. You also can encourage representatives from your organization to create Google Plus profiles in order to start the conversation about your brand.
Google Plus is an exciting project -- one that is clearly just beginning. For marketers, this provides a fresh opportunity to have relevant conversations with your brand activists.