Must brands have a Google+ page if they want to be active in social media?

With the imminent Facebook IPO valued in the low gazillions, one would be forgiven for fatalistic exaltations such as, "Game over."

Yes

John Bell, Global managing director, Social@Ogilvy
Two decades of experience as a communications practitioner and creative director

With the imminent Facebook IPO valued in the low gazillions, one would be forgiven for fatalistic exaltations such as, "Game over."

And yet we have Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and now Pinterest all vying for - and getting - consumer attention. It just goes to show that we will live in a multi-platform world for the foreseeable future.

So what about Google+? It has 100 million users with clearly a vast minority of them truly active. It has hooks into search results with the increasingly ubiquitous "+1" tagging and sharing system. People can see search results that their Google+ friends have tagged at the very tip-top of search results pages, a place we have all referred to as the best shelf space in town.

The cool drag-and-drop user interface of the "Circles" function makes the effort of segmenting messages a lot more fun. We can now create a Circle of tech reporters who cover cloud computing and another of "dads who love tech" and parse posts to each for higher relevance. Even President Obama recently hosted a Google+ "Hangout," joining the ranks of those who have used the group video conferencing solution as a neat broadcast tool. And did I mention the integration with Gmail? That alone is enough to take Google+ seriously.

But even with all these cool features, search integration, and the 100 million registrants, Google+ is an innovation play. Use it today to gain experience and learn, but don't expect appreciable business results, significant reach or engagement, or strong sales leads just yet. You certainly shouldn't do something rash like close down your Facebook account as one exuberant colleague did when Google+ first launched.

Start a personal or business account on Google+ to get experience. Add it as a touchpoint in your content and platform strategy. Publish updates regularly and give people a reason to add you to their Circles. Max out your followers.

Google has had some great innovations over the years, and yes, some flops, too. I am not sure the smart money is betting against Google on this one.


No

Victoria Graham, VP, digital solutions at Bite Communications
In her 11-year career, she has led clients such as Gap and Nokia to the social frontier.

Facebook? Check. Twitter? Check. YouTube? Check. LinkedIn? Check.

All your social ducks are in a row, each with a unique purpose and a brand community you've worked hard to keep engaged. But, wait, a new duck has just waddled up to join the flock.

Google+, with all its primary colored feathers, has slick features such as Hangouts (group video chat), Circles (allowing the ability to target groups of followers), and Ripples (visualization of a post's reach). Sexiest of all are the social search benefits of Google+. Because Google+ business pages are tied to Google's search algorithm, the more content you produce that's embraced by your followers via commenting, sharing, and clicking the handy "+1" button, the more brand visibility you'll build in Google searches.

In fact, Google+ is integrated into everything Google does - and Google does a lot. Google+ and the Google tendrils it connects to could very easily become the de facto social sphere of the future. Especially since Google conveniently only indexes its own social results in Google search, not the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and many other social services.

With roughly 100 million users globally, according to Google's latest earnings call, it's hard to ignore the desire to join. How many active users does it have, though? Google hasn't said - and perhaps for good reason. What if only a fraction of users are even interacting with their Google+ streams, let alone checking them on any sort of regular basis? And how many users are interested in striking up a conversation with brands on Google+, especially if they already have those relationships on Facebook and Twitter?

Don't get hung up on the details, though. Not yet, anyway. Do your research. Is your target audience on Google+? Are there key conversations happening on Google+ you want to be a part of? Have you discussed what distinct purpose Google+ can serve compared with your other social channels? Answered "no" to any of these questions? Then take a hard look at your desire to be a bird of a feather and get to work on a full social strategy before taking on Google+.


PRWeek's View
Marketers should give Google+ a try, if only for its tie-ins to other Google products. However, brands would be wise to wait until more active users adopt the platform before giving it the lion's share of their social media attention

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