There is a nice joke circulating on the web that details a GSCE Maths question concerning the Pythagoras theorem. The question is simply, “Find X”, to which a star pupil has thoughtfully labelled the triangle with an arrow pointing to X stating “It’s here”. Technically correct, but not the answer the examiner was looking for! Now that Google+ has opened up to all comers it a good time to see what it will mean for the small business owner. More to the point, should you and your business be on both Google+ and Facebook? Should you just ignore Google+ or cut back on Facebook or Twitter in order to make time for Google+? Or go nuclear and drop Facebook or Twitter? What you need to know is, “Will X be greater than the sum of the parts?”. At the moment, Google+ is focused on personal networking, but it is only a matter of time before Google introduces the equivalent of a Facebook Business Fan Page. When it does, I predict Google+ will become irresistible to the business community.
Google+ launched to a limited audience at the end of June 2011 in a “by invitation only” mode, but even so, managed to clock up to 25M customers in just a few weeks. It is the fastest ever launch by a Social Network. There are three main features that will make Google+ interesting for business:
- Circles- Separated Groups of Social Network Contacts
- Hangouts – A video/chat communication tool for up to 10 people (like Skype)
- Sparks – Like an RSS Reader that filters and presents information to you
I’ll cover these in more detail in a separate post, but for now, let’s concentrate on Circles. Circles allows the user to separate groups of contacts such that those contacts only see posts that are relevant to them. And as Google claim, it is much more natural to separate your contacts into groups in real life. So it makes sense. Consider for example, the effect of telling your Family and Relatives or Work colleagues everything that goes on during your Rugby Team away trips…
Of course, one of these Circles could be your private business contacts. The introduction of Circles as part of Google+ is a relatively small advance compared to what we know in Facebook (or more precisely, a different implementation of the same feature, since you can have private Groups on Facebook), but it works really well. I have often thought that Facebook’s presentation was cluttered for business use, but I guess we have all got used to it. Circles is “clean and intuitive” in software usability speak.
The reason that Google+ will become de rigor for business is not because Circles is so much better for business Social Setworking activity, (especially after Facebook itself has recently introduced changes), but because it is better integrated with Google’s existing business tools. The analogy is how Microsoft came to dominate PC Operating System and business software. Whether you like Microsoft or not, you have to marvel at how you can simply cut and paste (and a whole lot more) between applications. I believe that Google is heading for a high level of integration – and that this is a potential game changer – definitely for the business community.
For example, smart businesses have already found that they can increase their chances of being found in a Google Search if they “claim their business” and complete their profile on Google Maps. You can be absolutely sure that Google will arrange search results so that if your business has an active Google+ account, you will be more likely to get found. From Google’s point of view, there is sense in this as Google wants to present legitimate and relevant results to your query – and if they know your business is legitimate and worthy, because lots of people have put you in their business Circle and because you have lot’s of +1’s ( Google’s version of Facebook’s “Like”), it is entirely reasonable. On top of this, it is much more difficult for spammers to game a search engine that has human recommendation built into it. Contrast this with Facebook and it appears that Facebook’s attitude to business use is ad hoc and not integrated. Even the terminology of “Friends” and “Fans” is somewhat foreign to hard-nosed business persons.
In Social Media it seems that you can never do enough. The more you do the better, but you also want your activity to be efficient. I have talked before about “Minimum Effective Dose”- a medical term meaning you have to do just enough to get the result you want. In this case, it will mean joining Google+ and at least filling in your profile and claiming your “vanity” address plus linking this to your main website.
Right now it is difficult to say what X will be and so it is best to hedge your bets and have a presence on both Google+ (Personal until the Business Page equivalent launch) and Facebook, but what I can safely say is that with the introduction Google+, Social Networking activity has become even more important to your business. You can’t afford to wait anymore…