Among social networks, Facebook has reigned supreme basically since its inception. But recently it’s been losing steam – the site has had some user errors and teens (a popular demographic for Facebook) are growing tired of the network.
So what are some industry folks guessing will be the next social media behemoth on the horizon? Twitter: the popular microblogging platform? Instagram: Facebook’s video acquisition? Or perhaps Pinterest: one of the most popular networks for women? Guess again.
Arguments have been made that the biggest contender will be … (drumroll please) … GOOGLE+.
Let’s take a look at both sides of the argument:
There are a number of elements that make Google+ a strong contender for the number one spot:
• Search Engine Optimization (SEO) value. Active and regular use of Google+ Business effectively increases companies’ visibility across other Google platforms. So when you post relevant information to your Google+ page you have a better chance of those posts coming up in customers’ related Google search results. Additionally search ads using Google+ average 5-10% more clicks than ads that don’t use Google+. Connecting Google+ activity to Google.com and Google AdWords activity was a smart way to tie social, search and paid advertising together; making Google+ a key social network for brands.
• Hangouts. Google+’s free Hangout feature allows up to 10 people to participate in a video chat together in real time. (Think Skype or FaceTime for groups.) The platform is incredibly useful for internal communication/meetings, online media events and personal communication. Want your hangout to reach more than the allotted 10 people? You can broadcast your hangouts live (for free) across Google+, YouTube and your website.
• Communities feature. On Google+ you can easily connect with people that share similar interests via the Communities feature. This is especially valuable for companies trying to reach customers who are already on Google+ and have an affinity toward their industry and companies that target new customers specifically based on their interests.
• Platform Integration. Google has a lot of other popular programs and tools (such as Gmail, Analytics and YouTube) that can be accessed with one Google login. For some, the simplicity of being able to access multiple accounts will make all of Google’s platforms (Google+ included) more attractive to use.
But there are a few things that can’t go unnoticed that could prevent Google+ becoming the next big thing:
• It lost its initial momentum. When it launched its exclusive beta test the platform was all the rage. But does anyone care now? Public interest will be key to its success.
• Is it really fulfilling a need for consumers? There is obvious, strong value for Google+ for businesses. But let’s face it, for something to capture the popularity of Facebook, the general public has to see value in it. So far, we’re not sure Google+ has proven its value to the world at large … but our guess is that it will soon.
• Heavy competition. There are a bunch of other social networks out there that offer more “obvious” value and have caught on quicker than Google+ has: Twitter is a great news source; Pinterest is perfect for daily inspiration and sharing; LinkedIn is the leading professional network; Instagram, Vine and YouTube all provide great user-generated videos; and Facebook remains strong for connecting with family and friends. Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t a place for Google+ in mainstream culture – but that place hasn’t been fully realized yet.
Thinking about using Google+? Our recommendation: Do it. Give it a good, honest try and see how it enhances your business’ search efforts. You should see your company’s content coming up higher in search results and hopefully you’ll begin to get more qualified leads. And that’s truly valuable for businesses of all sizes – but especially for small businesses with small marketing budgets. After all, Google+ is free.
Now we want to hear from you. What’s been your impression of Google+ so far? Do you think it has the power to be the next Facebook? Or will it answer a different calling entirely?