As businesses face drastic drops in the organic reach of their Facebook posts, there are no doubt some shifting focus over to Google+. With recent reports, who could blame them? Forrester says marketers need to be using it. Shareaholic says it's much better than Facebook for post-click engagement (as is YouTube, which is connected).
Have you seen success with Google+? Are you looking into it more now that Facebook organic reach is dropping? Let us know in the comments.
What does it take to do well on Google+? Well, Amanda Blain is someone who has a pretty good idea. She's currently number 20 on the list of the top 100 Google+ profiles. In terms of followers, she's ahead of celebrities like Shakira, 50 Cent, and Paris Hilton. She knows what she's doing, and if you want to gain a significant presence on Google's social layer, you'd do well to listen to what she has to say. So, that's what we did, and we're sharing it with you.
Blain, a developer and manager of Girlfriend Social, used social media to help grow and expand her business. Girlfriend Social has over 50,000 followers, but that's nothing compared to how she's built her personal brand, in large part, using Google+. The "Amanda Blain" brand has over 4 million followers on Google+ alone. In addition to building her own brands, she has experience helping others build theirs.
"I also work with businesses to help them replicate my social media results," Blain tells WebProNews. "Many people claim to be Social Media Consultants, but few have actual success for their own brands or even with others brands for that matter. I have public proof of social media success, and I’ve replicated that success. I travel a lot for this work, speak at various conferences, change companies social media perspectives, help train social media staff in companies, and help connect brands with influencers."
We asked Blain to explain explain how she achieved her Google+ success. She said:
Within a month of joining G+, I had over 5,000 people circling (following) me. In the first 6 months, I had 40,000.
A big portion of this came from my participation in Hangouts and daily use. I saw many people saying that they had trouble getting started or weren't sure where to begin. That's where I helped out, and it resulted in a lot of people circling me.
Google Plus is VERY give-and-take, unlike many of the other social media sites. You need to spend time, "making friends" to get people to interact with you. I spent more time doing this than anyone I know, and in the early days of the site, this went a long way. I was holding more and more hangouts, and I was sharing targeted, curated, and themed circles that represented groups of thousands of people. I also shared content that people enjoy, focusing on topics that are in line with my interests. For example: up and coming technology, the latest video game I’m playing, and funny Android vs Apple graphics. You never saw “visit my blog” or “buy my product” splashed all over my page. The next thing I knew, people were recommending me as someone that "knows" Google Plus, referring to me as the “Queen of Google Plus”. I was then promoted by Google onto their Suggested User List, and the rest is history -- my audience kept growing. I am now the 20th most followed person in the world on the site.
That said, even with 4 million people following me now, I still constantly invest time into others, by holding public hangouts, commenting on other people’s posts, and sharing other profiles that I find interesting through public circles. That is something critical to understanding G+, people want to be heard and be a part of something, NOT talked to.
Google+ doesn't account for Blain's entire social media presence by any means. She uses most of the big ones: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LInkedIn, and Instagram, and has "pretty decent" followings on all of them. Still, Facebook has taken a pretty small amount of her attention from the sound of it. She tells us:
When initially working on Girlfriend Social's Facebook fan page, I tried to send a message via email to all my fans who had signed up for the fan page. Facebook did not allow you a way to do this. It became very clear to me that I was making a mailing list for Facebook, not for my business. I was basically making money for Facebook, not me. I have a Facebook fan page, but I've never spent much time developing it since that day. It never made sense to me. Facebook needs to make money, and businesses are the ones who will pay, not the end-user. They will get more and more aggressive to try and force that upon their business users. They have no other option.
Google on the other hand, makes money by providing the best possible search results for what you are looking for. They sell advertising on those results, so it is in their best interests, as well as yours, to have their search results showed the best possible matches. Part of how the Internet has changed in the last few years, is social signals. People tend to share things on social media instead of writing blog posts about them. Google wants to track the social signals of your content, so it can promote in the search engine more popular content. This is basically what authorship is. A way for Google to tell what you post about and what gets you interacting. If you are an authority on your topic, taking the time to invest in your Google Plus page and your author page will help increase your search engine results on Google. And that unlike Facebook’s model, is money for you.
On advantages of Google+ vs. Facebook and other platforms for business objectives, she says:
Google+ hands down has the best engagement options among these sites (with regard to comments, interactions, and relationship building). The platform is designed to encourage
discussions with others who are interested in the same topics as you. No matter what topic you're into, there's a community on G+ for it.
Google Plus is also part of a new way to communicate. There are no borders or limits. You can finally make friends based on what you are interested in and NOT the fact you sat next to each other in school or ended up working together. From a business standpoint, this means your customers are not really your friends and family members who like your page on Facebook, but people you don’t yet know. A lot of companies still have some difficult with this and is something I help companies with all of the time. Just because your mom or best friend might not be using Google+ yet doesn’t mean anything. What matters is that your customers (and potential customers) ARE.
My engagement on Google Plus is currently some of the highest on the platform. I have a greater number of pluses (983,000), shares (239,000), and comments (224,000) day after day on posts than celebrities and brands like Richard Branson, Lady Gaga or Time Magazine - many of whom have more than double the 4 million followers I have. What often blows my mind are the 224,000 total comments people have made on my posts. That's a lot of feedback on the things I say.
I also think there is something to be said for a platform that allows a techy, geek girl from Canada to reach those kinds of numbers and people every day - and I'm not the media, I'm just one person.
Blain makes a point right at the beginning of her tagline on Google+ to tell people she reads their comments. She tells us:
I think many people feel overwhelmed with Google Plus. They tried using the same social media techniques that they have learned on other networks and find that they are not getting any traction on Google Plus. I feel a big reason behind that is that they are using the same automated techniques that allow them to post cross-platform to many different areas. For example posting the same content on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram all at the same time through tools like Hootsuite. You can see brands will post the exact same Facebook or Twitter message into a Google Plus posts often using the wrong functions like using an @ symbol instead of the plus mention used on Google Plus.
It becomes very clear when brands do this, that they are not actually looking at what they are posting.Talk to, not talking with. Much like how people turn off commercials, or fast-forward past them, people are zoning out social media messages that are simply broadcasted without any response. People tell me all the time how much they appreciate me interacting with them “even though I have so many followers”. Most of the other “famous people” or people with millions of followers are not interacting with their audience. I actually take the time to plus 90% of the hundreds of comments I get every single day on Google Plus. I want to let people know I personally read what they took the time to write to me. It’s something that definitely makes me unique at this point though.
Actually interacting, commenting, and plusing with your audience is the fast track way to get success on Google Plus. You must invest the time. If you don't have the time to engage with your fans, and you are not a huge celebrity, I would seriously suggest you reevaluate your social media strategy.
The thing she loves most about Google+, she says, is connecting with people from all over the world in ways she never could before. "Hangouts are definitely a real winner too," she says. "I've done and seen some really cool things in Hangouts. A tour of a shopping mall in Dubai, a behind the scenes look at television news reports, concerts, artists drawing things live, famous landmarks like The Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, the Sydney Opera House, the CN Tower, the White House, and tons more. No other platform allows me to interact in real time like this with my audience. I really love Hangouts."
A common complaint about Google+ goes something like this: "My friends aren't on it." Blain thinks people simply have the wrong idea about it, and that they're "reluctant to use something they don't fully understand." She says:
We're not talking about the difference between Coke and Pepsi, and I think people often see Google Plus as a substitute for Facebook, when it's a completely different type of network. Facebook is not Twitter, Twitter is not Pinterest, and Google Plus is not Facebook. They are each unique in their own right and allow you to do different things with different audiences.
While the media loves saying nobody is on Google Plus and it’s a “ghost town,” it IS the next big thing. One thing to watch is how Google Plus is growing much more quickly than Facebook, which has hit a plateau. A lot of companies think they have social media covered if they have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but this couldn't be further from the truth.
Google+ according to its latest stats: Google is the 2nd largest social network of monthly “in the stream” active users (With 540 million people active across Google each month, 300 million people active in just the stream and more than 1.5 billion photos uploaded every week). Many like to misquote that or say “in the stream” is users commenting on YouTube, or using Gmail which is not accurate - these are users who are active in the Google Plus social stream, the people making posts on Google Plus itself. 300 million monthly active “in stream” users puts it firmly behind Facebook as the second most active and thriving network. Pinterest has about 70 million active users for example, yet I’ve never heard it referenced once as a “ghost town.”
Ultimately, those who continue to use the “ghost town” idea miss what Google+ actually is. Google has zero need to rush things or do mass marketing pushes to get people to “convert from Facebook”.
I think the interface on Google+ can be confusing for new people sometimes, but most felt the same way with Twitter, or even Facebook when it started. Those that used the sites, stuck around, and played with them until they understood how they worked did so because they realized that these tools played an important role for their business (or “because everyone they knew was there” and they did not want to miss out). In the last few months more people are saying similar things about Google+ and how they wished they had ‘stuck it out’ when they first joined.
Much like the best players in sports do, it's not about just playing your current position; it's also about anticipating where the next play is going to land. Right now, movement is headed towards Google Plus and it's increasing in velocity. If you're not ready to accept this, you'll be left behind.
Google has obviously been adding Google+ integration across its various products. Depending on the integration, this doesn't always sit well with users. I probably don't have to remind you about the great YouTube comment backlash. Some of this backlash translated to "F*** Google+," and "We don't care about Google+..." This video (language NSFW) expressing such sentiments went viral amid the YouTube-related fury:
To much of the YouTube community, which had already been around for quite a while as Google was still trying to figure out social media with Google Buzz, she made some valid points. And what a catchy tune.
But not all of the points were completely valid. Obviously some (like Blain) don't agree with lines like, "If it was gonna 'work' it would've happened by now." The fact is that it is working for those it's working for. Blain says of all of Google's integration:
I’m not sure exactly what the big deal is on this. All major corporations today have a main basic account that controls all their services. Every single person reading this article likely touched something Google today, be it Chrome, an Android phone, Maps, YouTube, Gmail or of course Search. Google+ is simply the ‘backbone’ or account that ties all that together. There is no difference to this than the Apple ID you use for iTunes and the App store, or your Microsoft Live account that is the background for Hotmail and your Xbox account. Google+ is the account that ties together all Google services, and only one part of it is the “social stream".
Personally, I did take some issue with the YouTube comments, but I also pretty much agree with this mentality. Blain says:
I feel that the YouTube comments integration was an amazing thing. Because I am an active user of Google Plus, every YouTube video that I come across now is full of relevant comments based on the people that I circle right up at the top. I can quickly see that new song that I like, was shared by my friends last week. No longer do I see things like “Billy Bob told me to come to this video”. It also proves very helpful with technical related videos. When I'm watching an Android review, for example, and I see that a prominent member of the Android community that I circle on Google Plus has commented on the video, saying they disagree with the statements that person present in the video, it completely changes my perspective. This is the point. With time you will circle and engage with influencers in various areas of your life. Their reviews, comments, and analysis of the videos that they come in contact with mean a lot more than random people and random comments, like Youtube use to be.
On whether or not Google is forcing Google+ on people, Blain says:
Another popular argument from the media, but as mentioned that's just the reality of all large corporations today. Most large companies are tying all of their properties together. Google Plus “the social stream” is not being forced on anybody in any way. Anyone saying that is missing the big picture. Google+ is the back end account for Google. Perhaps why people feel this is so forced upon them, is the sheer user base of Google products. Not everyone has an Xbox with Microsoft, or an iTunes account with Apple, (which no one is questioning why Apple is forcing them to create an apple ID or Microsoft with a Live account) but most people touch something Google every single day. That becomes clearer when they want you to log into a “Google+” account to access all of these Google products.
Do you agree with Blain about Google? Let us know in the comments.
Images via Amanda Blain